This blog post was written by former LEV Board Member and current National Board Certified teacher Kristin Bailey-Fogarty. It was originally published on the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession’s (CSTP) blog.
I’m the short one in the photo. That’s my boat at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in 1993, my last year of college at the University of Washington. This picture wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t be a college graduate, if it hadn’t been for someone at my high school who, without being asked by me or my parents to do so, put me in honors classes and on a college track.
SB 5243 does what some mysterious educator did for me in 1984; it requires that schools automatically place a capable student in academically accelerated classes. What a beautiful policy.
After I was expelled from a private school in ninth grade for being a behavior problem and an academic failure, I found myself totally out of my element at my local public school – Mission Bay High School.
Three weeks into my tenth grade year I was handed a new schedule, so I did what most kids do and went to my new classes without asking for an explanation. They were harder. Kids were better behaved. Later I learned I’d been put in honors classes. I do not know by whom, and I do not know why. Certainly not because of my transcript, which was full of Cs and Ds and negative comments about a failure to reach potential. Certainly not by intelligent and enthusiastic participation in class; I was so shellshocked I don’t think I said one word until December.
Now that I’m a teacher, I know that a teacher or counselor said something like, “Kristin should be in honors classes,” and it happened. I got a new schedule. And I, who had been frequently suspended and on chronic academic probation in junior high, ended up graduating with academic distinction and college credit for both American Literature and Political Science courses. I had both the education and the transcript to go to college, and I did, but only because someone put me on the right track without asking for permission.
My parents might have enrolled me in college-prep classes, but they didn’t know much about the San Diego Public Schools and, frankly, they temporarily washed their hands of my education after the tragedy of my junior high years. But I wasn’t totally on my own, a smart 14-year old with a bad record, because someone at Mission Bay was looking out for me. Every child deserves that of our education system. Problem children deserve it especially.
So let me recap what this policy looks like from someone who lived it: I went from being someone who was thrown away because of a failure to reach my potential to someone who was put in college-prep classes because I had potential. Isn’t that the kind of shift in opportunity great policy can create?
Senate Bill 5243 requires that districts “automatically enroll any student who meets the state standard on the high school statewide student assessment or meets a district-approved minimum threshold score on the PSAT in the next most rigorous level of advanced courses offered by the high school.”
It’s not about behavior, personal motivation, engaged parents or the ability to complete homework. It is about academic potential, and it forces schools to acknowledge that many students have it who don’t have academically hyper parents or the ability, confidence or ambition to fight for their own education.
I love this bill. I know it is the right thing to do.