By Anita Castillo
I have been a teacher for eight years and last school year (2009-2010), while teaching fifth grade, proved to be one of my toughest years.
In mid-October, I received a new student, who had not been previously enrolled at any other school. This young student was (at the time) being taken care of by a family friend since his mom deserted him and was living in Mexico. However, during his fifth grade year he was moved into foster care.
When we received his school records, we (the principal, special education teacher, and I) realized he was a special education student. He was a fifth grade student reading at a second grade level and working on a first grade math level. We immediately provided him with the necessary resources.
Before Christmas break, the special education teacher came to speak to me about my student. I was told immediate changes were required to be placed on my student’s educational needs. When he entered my class, he was identified as a TAKS-M student. Now, he was going to be recognized as a TAKS-A student for Reading and Math because our campus had too many students known as TAKS-M. Apparently, my student was chosen (by the principal and her supervisors) to be changed because he had passed the TAKS-M exams the previous school year. (He had received the minimal passing score.) I was totally against this change and I told the special education teacher that I would not sign any papers condoning this change. I was told that my signature and opinion were not necessary and that the change was already made. Do you know what they (the principal and resource teacher) told the student’s guardian was the reason for the change? He has shown great progress and it was time for a challenge. Should they see him regressing, than he would be placed back as TAKS-M. Guess what happened? He totally relapsed in class work, benchmarks, and the TAKS test. You may be asking why? Since the change, he stopped receiving assistance from the resource teacher. He was getting assistance from me only. I was modifying his work and still to no prevail.
My student was failing. He had failed both attempts of the Reading and Math TAKS tests. He was required to attend summer school. Before school was dismissed for the year I had asked to retain him, so he can truly get the help he needs. I was specifically told – “You can’t retain him because he is a special education student. Regardless if he passes the TAKS tests or not, he will be promoted to sixth grade.”
He has failed and it is not even his fault. It is the state’s fault. It is the district’s fault. It is my fault. I did not speak up for my student. I was pushing him at a level that he could not comprehend. It was too much for him to handle. The district is so worried about the “numbers” that they fail to focus on what is best for the student. Because our campus had too many students identified as TAKS-M, my student got the short end of the stick. The state fails to realize the unnecessary pressures we place on these innocent children just to satisfy a quota given to us by the No Child Left Behind Law. Well, guess what? We are leaving every child behind when we are forced to administer a ridiculous standardized test and promote students when they are not ready.
But who cares? The school got its exemplary status, which in turn gives the district a gold star from the state.
I care though. I have failed my student. I could not help him because of the restrictions given. Unfortunately, he was withdrawn from summer school and placed into his mother’s custody.
I promise to be a better advocate for my students, so that I don’t have a repeat of this again.