“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe
Several Atlanta parents and families are racing the clock to ensure that their student walks across the stage in just a few short hours to gain their high school diploma. However, this year, some Atlanta high schools continue to drop the ball with how they engage families in the process of graduation and ensuring that each child is college and career ready.
One Atlanta parent is extremely frustrated as the school her child is in has experienced changes in faculty that now may cause some students to be left behind. “Why doesn’t this school District consider us when making decisions. We’re tired of being penalized for they’re poor decisions!” As family engagement is the key to student and school success, parents are wanting to know why weren’t they informed weeks before about deadlines and things needed for graduation clearance. Many students who have experienced challenges in school academically, behaviorally and socially are often times the same children that are given the run around when it comes to graduation. “It’s like being punished after being told you can pass the class, master the test and recover from past mistakes only to still be short changed”, said one Atlanta student who is still waiting on clearance from the school to graduate.
School leaders would argue that parents should take advantage of meetings they offer, students should be more responsible and that families should be more engaged. Parents and families would counter that and say schools need to do their job starting with effectively communicating with stakeholders. At the end of the day the feud between school leaders and parents won’t change the reality of many students not walking across the stage to receive their high school diploma because we failed them. Here are some ways school Districts can effectively ensure students complete their high school programs:
- School Districts creating college & career readiness success plans for all students that tracks yearly progress, 9th – 12th, as well as indicates what classes are required and by when as students enter 9th grade.
- Connecting staff that work in the support areas i.e. registration, attendance, counseling, family engagement, behavior and graduation support to ensure that students and families are kept in the loop of things needed for graduation.
- Begin the graduation clearance process a month in advance to give students who are lacking required items enough time to complete requirements. A part of this should be a mandatory meeting with the student, parents, teachers and administration.
- Follow the Student/School Compact or Contract that all stakeholders i.e. administrators/school rep, parent and students sign. This is a tool to already in place to help ensure accountability measures for student success are met.
- Provide family coaching and mentoring for students who are 1st generation college bound or who have families that have experienced challenges with reaching graduation milestones.
My charge to families, Educators and community stakeholders is to help ensure that more of our students find success by walking across the stage, completing high school and being job ready. There are too many youth being incarcerated or involved in a tragedy that prevents them from reaching success. As the school to prison pipeline is growing in rural and urban communities across America, it’s going to take adults to work more effectively together to ensure that we help students reach success. Preventative measures that cause students not to graduate including missing books, unpaid for lunch fees, past due library books, missing school uniform, etc., should be reformed and removed. These small barriers to graduation can change the course of success for students and their families. We must remember, if we’re not working together to push our children through the graduation pathway, we’re pushing them into the prison pipeline.