At 8:55 on a Wednesday morning last week, Ciril was pacing up and down the hallway as he stared at a piece of crumpled paper, moving his lips, silently reading from the page.
He was reading his Shakespeare sonnet which he would be reciting in front of his class in a few minutes. Big deal, right? I mean how many hundreds of English teachers have asked how many thousands of students to, at one point or another, choose a favorite Shakespearian monologue or sonnet to recite in front of the class?
Exactly three years and six months ago, Ciril came to us as a freshman. Fewer than half of his tribe members have completed high school and far fewer attend college. He read at a 3rd grade level as a 9th grader.
Ciril's path has been remarkable. He has spent literally hundreds of hours working one on one with our school's reading specialist. He has an advisor who cares deeply about him. He has teachers who know him and hold him accountable for producing his best work. He hasn't been "given" any passing grades, and it has been far from easy.
Ciril is fortunate to attend a small high school, but none of these developments in his life happened simply as a result of school size. He has a circle of peers and adults who have been educated in the values and actions of a caring community. Ciril's positive outcomes involved him overcoming serious “I can’ts” or, more often "I won'ts" within arm’s length of people who knew and cared about his limitations and strengths.
He has spent his senior year splitting his internship hours between a guitar store and as an aid in a middle school classroom with a Tohono O'odham language teacher, helping younger kids learn to speak and read O'odham. In just two months, He is going to graduate from high school and go to college.
And he earned a B on his sonnet recital.
I'm not sure how a value-added model can possibly calculate all that he has accomplished. But he knows, and we know, that the most important value that is ever added through the hard work of teachers and students will never be accurately depicted on a graph.