Only 20 miles away -A completely different high school experience

MV and similar schools are proud of their high graduation rates, and they should be, but lower performing districts have to deal with so much more.


Grace Wensley

This graph displays graduation rates of several districts around the Bay Area. Districts have been measured and compared to each other on the same standardized scale for years, despite differences in circumstances.

Grace Wensley, Staff Writer

   Ninety seven percent. That was the percent of students in the SRVUSD district that graduated highschool in 2011. Sixty five percent. That was Vallejo City Unified school district’s rate, almost half of  SRVUSD.

This is just one example of how students living completely different lives with different circumstances are placed on the same standardized scale.    

It is all a part of public school education. A system created to provide free, standardized education across an area. But if students experiences aren’t the same then why are we mandating the same level of success and proficiency from everyone?

Experience. It is the key word that explains these differences in “scores” or “rates”. Many students have a very different one compared to ours.

It’s difficult for a student to be successful when they are trying to determine how they’re going to get their next meal and meet their basic needs, or raise their younger siblings with the absence of parents. On the other hand, most students at Monte Vista feel that their next test or game means everything.

Much of the blame for low performing students is their “lack of motivation”. If they would just get focused then they could succeed just like kids in our district, right? Well, when your all your focus is directed towards literally surviving, is studying for your vocab test high up on your list of priorities?

But let’s not forget the students in these districts that do graduate, and lead successful lives. There are many of them that are “roses that grew from concrete” like Tupac said. Still their experience isn’t quite the same as ours. Oftentime kids that can focus on school are still affected by students that interrupt class time.

Assistant Principal John-Paul Ballou has had experience in districts similar to VCUSD. He explains the reason why we are able to  take time out of our day to practice for standardized tests, like the new CAASP testing which ultimately raise our “scores”.

“It[practice test] does take away from instructional minutes from other programs, but I think that the fact that we have such a great student body allows us to do this,” Ballou said. “I’ve worked at other schools and I’d say that as much time as the teacher wants[here] is committed to teaching. Some schools, a lot of their time is spent on discipline, there’s not a whole lot of focus in the classroom, so the students here allow the teacher to be a lot more efficient. I think in that way we have a luxury because we can do stuff like this.”

Our graduation rates and 95% passing rate as tenth graders of the CAHSEE reflect these special amenities that we have, and also the experiences that we live.

We all have to realize that for the most part kids are kids, and we all try our best at what is most important to us specifically; academics, sports, music. Other kids try their best too, but at staying safe, avoiding gangs, raising a child. It’s a whole different experience that they live, and it is important to take this into consideration when evaluating the success of a school.

So how can we categorize all students into the same group and measure them on the same scale? Every kid is different, and their goals and scores may be drastically different than ours, but because they have to be. It’s their only choice.