I sat across from Mrs. Hernandez as she pulled out another tissue from the Kleenex box on my desk. She was crying.
I had just notified her that her son, Manuel, would not be participating in the promotion ceremony we have every year for the eighth grade class.
Manuel had earned below a 1.5 cumulative GPA for the two years he was at my school, and that made him ineligible to participate in the ceremony.
She was in my office trying to see if I could make an exception in her case.
Every year, about November, we notify all 8th grade students about the District’s GPA eligibility requirements to participate in the promotion ceremony. We give them a letter to take home and get signed by a parent. Mrs. Hernandez admitted to signing the letter, but she didn’t know that her son’s grades were that bad.
The main issue was that Mrs. Hernandez didn’t speak English, and Manuel was not telling her the truth about his grades. Teachers sent home notices letting Mom know that Manuel was not turning in his work. Phone calls were made, but the language barrier made it difficult, and Manuel’s apathetic attitude didn’t help.
In this case, as with many other students who have parent who don’t speak English, there was a lack of communication between the parents and the school that allowed the student to fall through the cracks.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t help Mrs. Hernandez that day. I could not allow Manuel to participate in the ceremony without making an exception for the other 11 students who didn’t qualify.
That meeting had a profound effect on me.
Manuel didn’t walk into the stadium that year with the other eighth graders on promotion day. He didn’t get his name read or stand in line to shake hands with district officials.
He didn’t shake my hand, or hear me say, “Congratulations!”
I saw this as a failure on our part as a school and on me as a school administrator.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t let this happen again.
I have made it a goal to do all I can to make sure that no 8th grade student will miss participating in the promotion ceremony due to low GPA this coming year.
I wanted to lay out my plan to meet that goal here.
Objective: All 8th graders finish the year with a cumulative GPA of 1.5 or greater, making them eligible to participate in the promotion ceremony.
1. Beginning of the year: Communicate with teachers about the goal. Identify the students who have a 1.5 GPA or below from 7th grade. Share this information with teachers.
2. Within the first month: Have a one-on-one conversation with each student on the list regarding the promotion ceremony eligibility. At the same time, make contact with parents as well.
3. At the end of the first month: Check the current grades of the students on the list to either add or remove from the list. Meet with students one-on-one. Identify which classes each student is receiving poor grades in. Communicate with the teacher to find out why student is not being successful and what supports are being provided. Make contact with parents again.
4. Repeat step 3 every month.
5. Run another GPA report at the end of each reporting period to get a better idea of which students are at risk.
6. When a student is removed from the list, meet with that student and praise him/her for the accomplishment. Contact parent as well.
In our district, every intermediate school has a list of students who don’t participate in promotion. Every school follows the same 1.5 GPA guideline for eligibility.
To borrow a line from Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, “a leader envisions a world that doesn’t exist.”
I want to make our school that school that doesn’t exist – the school with no students on the ineligible list.
That is what I will be sharing with the staff at the beginning of the year. We will be that school.
I believe, with the help of our teachers, I will never have to tell a parent that his/her son or daughter won’t participate in the promotion ceremony, and as a byproduct, our student success rate will improve.
It will be more work for me, I admit, but well worth the effort to see all my students in line, receiving their certificate, shaking my hand and hearing me say, “Congratulations!”
Thank you for reading and sharing.
Until next time, here’s to your journey toward School Administration Mastery!