June 8, 2007

Editorial:

June: A time to honor our students

June, it could be argued, is the greatest month of the year. June is a month of hope, renewal and a sense of accomplishment as the traditional school year closes. Graduates of all ages close a chapter in their lives, and prepare to move on to greater challenges.

As parents, we smile with pride and joy, watching our preschoolers’ don their little graduation outfits, as they symbolically say farewell to their “baby days.” We shed a tear, knowing that those days of innocence are now gone.

In today’s world, kindergarteners’, 6 and 7 year olds, are required to know and do more than ever before. By the time our children reach the third grade at about 9 years old, if they are not reading at grade level, studies have shown they may never catch up and will be left behind for the rest of their lives. In kindergarten, it used to be good enough to know your numbers and ABC’s - that no longer satisfies the benchmark.

Starting with the second grade, the pressure is on for students. They are having to do well on tests, lots of tests. It is no longer uncommon for students this young to experience anxiety, stress and nervousness. Their whole self-worth becomes dependant on meeting a standard. Teachers experience the same anxiety, stress and nervousness as they are being judged by the number of students exceeding the standard. A standard that reflects a one size fits all formula. A standard that does not take into account the extraordinary circumstances that are inherent with low income, English as a Second Language communities, judging them by the same standard as an upper middle class community. If the schools do not meet set standards, they are deemed a failure and instead of receiving intervention, they face consequences.

It should be noted that in predominately low income neighborhoods, Hispanic, African-American and ESL (English as a Second Language), students are not meeting the standards set forth. Hispanics in particular are at the bottom of the educational totem pole when it comes to learning and graduating. There has been some progress in closing the gap, but it remains wide by any standard. As a community and a society, much work remains.

Education is recognized as ‘the key to the future’ for our children and society. There are organizations, groups and individuals that are working to ensure our Hispanic students have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Groups such as the local League of United American Citizen’s (LULAC) San Diego Council #2842 have been providing scholarships for the past two decades. Encuentros Leadership, Hombre a Hombre of North San Diego County have also been providing leadership and mentoring for our young North County Hispanics. The Tom and Pearl Martinez Foundation have been recognizing and encouraging elementary students through incentive awards. San Diego MANA (Mexican-American Women’s National Association) and the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have been providing scholarships. These are just to name a few.

Today’s world is recognizing the success of our students, their needed sense of accomplishment, and noting that more than ever our students are better prepared to conquer the next phase of their lives. It goes without saying that we should give kudos to the parents that are behind these students, supporting, encouraging, mentoring and sharing the stress over their grades.

When June comes around, there is a great sense of accomplishment and pride. We applaud our children as they receive their diplomas and hugs from teachers who wish them well as they continue forward on their journey. Perhaps we can add a sense of relief as we say, “Mission accomplished.”

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