So, Trey and I are entering a whole new frontier in parenting and lately, have been overwhelmed by the prospect of Darius graduating and heading off to college. What we've seen and experienced has been frustrating and heartbreaking and all the talk about education across the country and across our city has come home to roost.
Darius is an incredibly bright kid full of charm and personality. He's in his school's National Honor Society and will graduate in the top 10% of his class. In Texas, that last bit means he is automatically accepted into any Texas state college. He's received acceptance letters so far from Texas Tech, University of North Texas, University of Texas at Arlington, and Stephen F. Austin State University. University of Texas' acceptance letter is expected any day. He didn't apply to Texas A&M and that is a point of contention between he and I that I will not discuss here. I will let you know, though, that I'm handling it with grace. And I've stopped buying him Ranch Dressing as punishment.
If I could end this story with that paragraph, we'd be thrilled. We'd be over the moon and so excited at the opportunities before him. He's not only graduating but he's also, by all appearances, headed off to a four year university, and therefore, like his brother, watching the trajectory of his life change. Everyone is encouraging him to just take the pick of the litter and celebrate.
Except us. We're having to have very hard conversations with a young man that feel to us like we're ripping the rug out from under him.
From his SAT scores and scores on ACCUPLACER tests - tests designed to measure a student's college readiness - he's no where close. Even with all the good grades, his schooling has not prepared him for the rigors of a college education. We've talked to several experts, and have thrown out what if's like, "What if he's just a poor test taker?" Possible with the SAT, but not to this degree, and not possible with the ACCUPLACER, a test designed to measure very specifically and accurately a student's academic skill in reading, writing, and math.
So, what does he do? Certainly, he could take the opportunites before him and work like he's never worked before to hang on. We've been told the leap would be monumental. Or, he could attend a junior or community college for a year and get the remediation he needs, then, hope he can get into one of the schools he's already been accepted to, with his community college grades. Oy vey.
On top of that, so many people in his academic life are baffled wondering why he wouldn't just take the bird in the hand. Unfortunately, many of those people measure their benchmarks simply by how many of their kids get into a four year university, not by how long they stay there. Their programs are financially incentivized to look at the child's first move upon graduation, not his second or third.
We've told Darius over and over, this is not just a Pinkston problem, or a DISD problem but an education problem across the country. But he feels like he's been robbed. He's played a game all his life and played it very well according to the standards set for him. But, now, he's moving onto the next bracket only to find out his first round has not prepared him. Because I like to cook - I'm going to use a cooking analogy. Let's say you spent years learning to make dinner. You were given the directions and ingredients to make spaghetti. You got really good at spaghetti. Yours was pretty darn good and you've come to believe you're a pretty decent chef. And spaghetti is great. You could eat it every day and survive. But, you want to learn more so you walk into the next room and are asked right off the bat to make a seven course meal consisting of everything from an amuse bouche, to coq a vin, to creme brulee. You'd be toast, literally. Nothing about learning to make spaghetti excellently has prepared you for the next step. It would be a hard slap in the face and that's what Darius is feeling on the cusp of graduation.
Studies are showing that, across the country, only 25% of graduating seniors are truly ready for college. The education system is failing these kids. We know high school sophomores who are probably onlyoperating on at fourth grade reading level. Kids who will be starting high school next fall who can't write a paragraph using a basic proper sentence structure. And a kid graduating this Spring learning that being commended for marginal work does far more harm than good.
This is a national problem, made worse in the inner-city, and we're seeing the impacts firsthand. And it is infuriating for everyone involved - starting with the child.