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New Narratives, Same Failures

Currently parading through the circuit of “new obligatory narrations” is this notion that test scores only tell one part of the story. I got my first whiff of this week as a story was released by the Riverhead Times Review that focused on the NY State Math and ELA exams administered in April and May 2019.

I generally ignore the actions of our sending district. A couple of years ago, I went over to introduce myself to the incoming superintendent of Riverhead Central School District. My initial thoughts before the meeting were that it would be a fresh start. 

Rarely do people of color transcend to the level of superintendent on Long Island. It’s not because we aren’t qualified. It’s because Long Island, contrary to any other beliefs, is one of the most racist places in the United States. I share this to say that I went into this meeting with a high level of respect and admiration for the new superintendent.

Minutes into the meeting, she turns and says,” You know you’re the competition, right?” To which my response was,” You know districts and charters can collaborate right?”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the response. I was probably more disappointed than I was surprised. My mindset is a students and families first mindset. I’m not into the business of playing politics when it comes down to the educational lives of minority students. Their education means too much to me to let my ego get in the way of offering the resources and training they deserve.

Moreover, when I read the article and the Riverhead superintendent pontificated on the test score question, it brought me back to the disappointing meeting that I had with her. We get the same kids—our kids are learning, their kids not so much. If the shoe were on the other foot, there would be cries to close our school down.

Casually scrolling through twitter, I see a similar comment made by the superintendent of schools in Buffalo. The irony is that the test scores from Riverhead and Buffalo mirror one another. So again, I’m not surprised that these low achieving districts are finding new easy ways to defend their low student achievement. It just pisses me off that students and families don’t have the freedom to leave these underperforming districts in droves. 

What Do You Think?
Raymond Ankrum
Ray Ankrum is a firm believer that education can be the catalyst to eradicate generational poverty. Since working in the Baltimore City Public School system and transitioning into the charter school world, he has served students in the position of Dean of Students at Democracy Prep Public Charter School, Principal at Harlem Village Academies, & now superintendent of Riverhead Charter School located on Long Island, NY. Mr. Ankrum is currently in advanced candidacy for his doctorate at Manhattanville College, where he is set to defend his doctoral dissertation in August of 2020. The title of Ankrum’s doctoral proposal is “The Successes and Challenges of Parent Engagement in Urban Charter Schools.  Ray is also an alumni of the Summer Principals Academy, 2009 Cohort and a member of the 8 Black Hands Podcast team. Find him on Twitter at @Mr_Ankrum.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wow! Those test scores produced by your school are truly impressive! I honor the hard work done by you, your teaching staff, and support staff. I also would like to give honor and my admiration to the kids in your school who worked hard to earn their great test scores….more power to them!

    I understand your frustration with default obligatory narratives invented by public school bureaucracy. Their is no moral basis for insisting on language (narratives/rhetoric) that use symbolism over substance in order that issues become glossed over and truth is made obscure.

    The truth is: Test scores do mean something very important. The scores directly reflect real effort and integrity by which school staff and students approached the challenges of striving for success. Good test scores are substantive and very honorable. Meanwhile, over on the public school side, by narrative we are told their low scores reflect one or more societal circumstances that extinguish any innate determination to succeed among “all” students in their school. That is pure symbolism, cover up, fatalism, not honorable at all.

    I would like to add something for needed clarity. When you, Mr. Ankrum, and others talk about raising the bar above typical public school mediocrity, you are not acting out of some kind of mean-spiritedness. The evidence of your work demonstrate creating places of learning (not daycare). Injustice (real inequity) of disruptive kids damaging the learning environment is simply “not allowed.” The innate determination (desire) to succeed that is carried within every individual student (no matter their race, socio-economics), is kindled and “encouraged.” As students reach a benchmark, the bar is raised some so that students then apply new found skill/confidence to achieve more…etc., etc. Am I correct?

    Yes – build them up and continue to reject holding them back with the poison of victimization politics found in empty narrative symbolism of many public schools. Way to go Mr. Ankrum! Go man go! Please remember to take care of yourself too….and same for your hard working staff.

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