Some of the core values that Teach for America pushes one us; 1. maintain rigor, 2. develop high expectations. My first year roommate has made me think about these things recently. He has been having some trouble developing some of that rigor in that class and feels like he is "dropping his expectations." As I first listened to him I said to myself, "well, they are doing well...for our kids." YIKES. DIVERSITY CORE COMPETENCIES (insert TFA jargon here). I need to check myself, before I wreck myself.
High expectations are what make our students successful. Successful is not a 19 on the ACT. I don't care that it gets you a scholarship through the Arkansas Lottery. It's almost a back handed scholarship, in my opinion, because it can only be used at state schools, which in Arkansas does not translate to top 20, top 50.... even top 70 (Razorbacks are sometimes top 75). Beyond that, particularly because of being in a rural place, I think it is even more important for the students to get beyond the state lines and into a new environment.
I have perhaps dropped my expectations without realizing. On average my students read at a seventh grade level, and have gotten an average of a 15 on the ACT thus far. A 15 is not good. Seventh grade reading level (average...meaning 1/2 are below this) is not good. But then, when a students goes from a 12 to a 15, or a 5.8 reading level to an 8.3... I am happy. I feel a slight struggle in this progression throughout the year. They are reaching their reading goals. Reaching their individual growth goals. But, are they reaching a level where they will succeed in a place that is high functioning? A place where people thrive on competition (and competition at a much higher level then they are currently at)? Am I preparing them for that situation?