I read with interest the letter Fallbrook Union High School District Board President Sharon Koehler wrote on the topic of Program Improvement. I am the former principal of Fallbrook Street School and have spent a career relentlessly demanding that schools reject excuses, think outside the box, and boldly create cultures of excellence that result in the academic achievement of all children.
I acknowledge the admirable commitment of some Fallbrook High teachers as they fight an uphill battle against arguably complacent leadership. However, I am dismayed that the Fallbrook community does not rise up and demand with one voice that their high school be lead in ways that result in a culture of respect, excellence, and high achievement for all students. Anything less is unacceptable. Our students deserve better than what they currently get.
Affluent children usually do well wherever they attend school. They and their parents find ways to navigate around pockets of mediocrity, and these students often leave high school with transcripts that allow them to attend good universities. However, an essential sign of a great school is how well students achieve if they live in poverty or speak a first language other than English. At Fallbrook High, too many of these students are left behind in shocking ways with few people advocating on their behalf. That is inexcusable.
To cite two disturbing statistics that make my point, consider the 2013 STAR test results that show only 4% of economically disadvantaged 9th grade Fallbrook High students finished the year proficient in general mathematics, and 15% of economically disadvantaged 10th grade students finished the year proficient in geometry. What are the chances these students will ever attend a four-year college? What would the community response be if these statistics represented the academic non-achievement of affluent white students? What will Fallbrook High do differently to change this trajectory of failure?
Poverty and English acquisition create unique teaching challenges. That is obvious. But there are many examples of high schools across America with demographics similar to Fallbrook High that have successfully addressed these challenges and created cultures of excellence for all students. When the academic achievement of low-income and second language students increases, the academic achievement of all students increase. We can learn from those schools.
Fallbrook High School belongs to the Fallbrook community. The residents of Fallbrook have the right – the obligation — to demand that members of the Board of Trustees stop making excuses and require their superintendent to exercise bold and collaborative leadership that results in schools where all students achieve at the same high levels.
Good intentions are not enough. Results count.