The News Tribune logo

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I invite my neighbors to share stories and pictures of students of color who have successfully completed their high school education. I was moved to do this for two reasons:
1. recent conversations I have begun
2. the few news reports I have read that focus on students of color who succeed
3. the lack of conversation about the strengths of our educational systems in America

I was moved by this article that appeared in the TNT Saturday, June 21, paper copy and online. The two women students in this article are African American; the two men students are White American.

State requirements? These seniors met them

DEBBY ABE; Published: June 21st, 2008 01:00 AM

They did it.
Each of the four Class of 2008 seniors The News Tribune followed this school year met new state graduation requirements to pass the WASL writing exam or pass math classes.
This spring’s senior class was the first in the state required to meet standards on the reading and writing sections of the 10th-grade Washington Assessment of Student Learning or a state-approved alternative.
Seniors also had to fulfill a math requirement by passing the math WASL exam, passing an alternative or, if they failed the math exam, trying the math test again and passing a year long math course.
They also needed to complete a culminating project, have a plan of what to do the year after high school, and amass the traditional course credits required by school districts and the state.

Here’s how the four South Sound seniors fared.

School: Washington High School, Parkland.
Age: 18.
WASL history: Tried but did not pass any required WASL sections in 10th grade. That summer, she retook all the sections and passed the reading section. She attempted the writing and math sections in the 11th grade and passed writing.
The challenge: Pass a year long math course in her senior year and retake the math WASL, though passing the exam is not required.
Result: Graduated. She met the math requirement by passing two semesters of “segmented math,” a new class designed by the state to teach WASL concepts. She attempted the math WASL but was still awaiting her score.

What’s next: Attend community college, then transfer to the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Career goal: Lawyer.
Advice to high school students: “You have your ups and downs. … Don’t give up.”
Parting words: “I’m excited to graduate. I had a long journey.”

School: Graham-Kapowsin High School, Graham.
Age: 19.
WASL history: He passed the reading section in 10th grade, but not the writing or math. He passed math in the 11th grade, but not writing. He missed meeting the writing benchmark by 1 point on each attempt.
The challenge: Pass the writing section or complete a “collection of evidence” consisting of specific class assignments demonstrating knowledge and skills tested on the WASL. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – problems concentrating and staying focused.
WASL preps: He took a communication arts class and was tutored by an English teacher hired by Graham-Kapowsin to help students pass the reading and writing WASL or the alternative.
Result: Graduated. He met the standard two ways – by submitting a writing collection of evidence and by passing the writing WASL exam. He scored 18 on each effort; the minimum needed to pass either measure was 17.

What’s next: Hang with friends this summer before he leaves Aug. 26 for Air Force boot camp in Texas.
Reaction upon learning he passed: “I was happy. I was like, ‘Yes!’”

Advice to high school students: “Work hard. Pay attention in class.”

School: Spanaway Lake High School, Spanaway.
Age: 17.
WASL history: Passed the reading and writing portions of the WASL, but has been unable to conquer the math section.
The challenge: Complete a year long math course this year and retake the math WASL, though passing the exam isn’t required.
Result: Graduated. Passed two semesters of geometry. She retook the math WASL but just barely missed passing.

What’s next: Attend Pierce College, then transfer to Eastern Washington University.

Career goal: Clinical psychologist.
Reaction upon seeing a passing math grade on report card: “I was excited. Really happy … That was the only question” of whether she’d graduate.

Advice to high school students: “Just study really hard … and don’t worry about it too much.”

School: Curtis High School, University Place.
Age: 19.
WASL history: Attempted but did not pass the three required WASL sections in 10th grade. Retook the test in 11th grade and passed reading and math.
The challenge: Pass the writing WASL or his writing collection of evidence in English, even though it’s his second language. Deshkin emigrated from Mordovia, Russia, to the United States in September 2003.
WASL preps: Took 12th-grade English, English as a second language and an English class for students who failed the WASL.
Result: Passed the WASL writing exam. Stopped preparing the collection of evidence once he learned he passed. To graduate, must still pass one English class.

What’s next: Probably take the needed English class in summer school to earn his diploma; go to Tacoma Community College in the fall.

Career goal: Software programmer, information technology specialist or video producer.
Reaction at not being able to participate in Curtis’ commencement: “I wasn’t upset. We’re moving this month to a new house in Fircrest. We need a lot of time to do work on the new house.”

He’s confident he will pass another English class to graduate.
Reaction when teacher told him he’d passed the writing WASL: “I was really, really happy.”

Debby Abe: 253-597-8694




Kim Thompson said...


I like this post. I like it because it's hopeful and positive. Hooray for the kids!

I worked in special education this last year and I worked with all kinds of students that needed my help, kindness, and love. The gift they all gave me was eagerness to be at school and learn.

My personal day-to-day experiences reinforced the fact that kids can make it; it's everyone's job to support and nurture that. It isn't easy, it isn't perfect, but it IS. And I am excited to contribute.

A nice fresh start to continued conversation in the neighborhood, Joseph.


JosephMcG said...

I loved having to face the other side of myself this year. One high school student I could not stand...
too controlling, wouldn't listen to me, disagreeing with everything I believed, (I kept my distance from this child of God for a year) came up to me and said how much I had been missed...
That floored me, left me wondering about my own understanding of self and of this person...
Taught me this... relationships are much more complicated than I get...

Kim Thompson said...


One of my most beloved students threw things at me. Ran away from me. Refused to own up to wrongdoing. Some days I got weary. Some days I got frustrated.

But I loved him anyway.

That's what saw us through. One person has an impact. Trust me.

I went back to your post a couple of days ago. The comments, well....I can look at this no longer. I want to start here; fresh and new.

Here we go!


JosephMcG said...

One of my closest friends son, now in his forties, got really hurt when he was in high school. He started doing drugs, became a coke addict, using and selling. He got caught, did his time in jail, got out and was back on the streets again and doing drugs.
I mourn the loss to the community of his great talents, a brilliant, self reflective human being.
Whenever I get a chance, I love talking to him... we laugh, we tease. He quickly goes to the heart of the matter about the whys and wherefores of this country. I leave our conversations emotionally satisfied and intellectually stimulated.
Hoping and praying that this time he won't end up in jail again.
Beautiful man... loving mother... so very, very hurt.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Joseph, each year when school starts there are one or two students that appear to be trouble. They have an attitude which is frequently compounded by a learning disability of some variety and 99% of the time by the end of the year I adore these very same youngesters who had chips on their shoulders in the fall.

By giving students a structured environment with expectations made with love, they can achieve more than they ever dreamed. By listening to their story and honoring their experience you can get more out of students. Or as my father used to say, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

JosephMcG said...

I agree with you, Stephanie, 100% I learned something important about intercultural communication last week.
This friend of mine told me that there many people he knew that had high regard for me, they just did not know how to show it.
We were talking about men of the majority culture at the time. And my friend was a man of that culture who had spent a whole lifetime serving people of color.
I told him I found what he said very signficant because I always experienced, when I spoke with many of the individuals he was talking about nothing, on the feeling level, no contact at all.
My friend said that many people of color had told him the same thing... that it was very difficult to figure out what was going on with many White males.
My friend then told me that so many men had never learned how to show or share their feelings.
Things clicked inside of me... I came to understand why I had left so many, many conversations frustrated, emotionally hungry, spiritually untouched, physically seeking relief from the lack of emotional and spiritual nurturing.
And I have shared all this to highlight one of my greatest sadnesses... my concern for all our children... without that emotional and spiritual nurturing, I think, children will grow up feeling emotionally needy and spiritually starved...
I think that loving each other and our children are essential to us coming together. But when we have never learned how to love... to nurture each other emotionally and spiritually, I think we shall continue to run from each other, exploit each other, and, finally, end up alone, frustrated, angry, and lost.
What do you think?

Stephanie Frieze said...

Fear is the root of so much misunderstanding and the fear springs from a lack of knowledge of each other. My grandson has a CD with the song "The More We Get Together the Happier We'll Be." I am glad that he's learning that lesson at four.

With very little knowledge of other sorts of me, I believe that white men have a difficult time talking about feelings. They feel compelled to do, not feel. My husband would take exception to this statement and point out that he cries at movies, but that is different than addressing one's own issues.

JosephMcG said...

So... I am choosing to move on, share where I can share, and stop talking about loving... just loving...
I believe that key to building community is sharing unconditionally our feelings and thinking... and listening to others doing the same...
Trying to be real

Lorraine Hart said...

I'm always ready to cheer when it comes to the kids! They need our attention...and if they can't get it in a good way, they're left with bad ways that assure the wrong kind of attention...but attention nonetheless.

This is where I find the system upside-down in its investment. We've said it so many times in this space...and we'll keep saying it. The Arts programs are what help our youngsters integrate basic learning with their own unlimited potential to dream...and make the future.

I also believe more has to be worked out between the rights of parents to direct their childrens' course...and the rights of the children to be exposed to choices and individual decision-making for their own course in life.

JosephMcG said...

Thank you, Lorraine... whatever can be done to create a climate where parents, children, teachers, and all those whose focus is on the children's learning, experience being understood, accepted, and challenged to share themselves (choice making, assuming responsibility for one's actions, and sharing their gifts... (the gifts that are set aside, I think, are feelings, imagining, compassion, and creativity (the arts)...
let the conversation continue