“So what, what does that say? That we are accepting losing. We do not know how to win. That’s the bottom line.”
-Hector Salinas, Former SISD Interim Athletic Director
This is the one quote out of many that, more than any other, got people in our community upset. To suggest that we accept losing, that we throw in the towel, is a charge that many were quick to rebut. People commented on social media that we do want to win but that we also need to support the student-athletes, win or lose, and let them know we appreciate their effort and dedication. And that is important.
But just maybe Mr. Salinas was right, in a way. Maybe we do accept losing. Not on the athletic field, but rather in the classroom.
I talk to a lot of people about our schools and how we can improve. Many of these conversations are unsolicited-in the grocery store, in my office, or at school events. Everyone has an opinion, but I find there are some themes. One of these themes can be summarized by the quotes below.
“Look at what we have to work with.”
“Their parents don’t care, so what do you expect?”
I ask the reader to close your eyes and picture the students referred to in these quotes. I am guessing you aren’t picturing white, middle class students. The people who said these things and the many variations on this theme were referring to students with brown skin or black skin. And to students whose families are poor-perhaps the parents are still children themselves or perhaps there is only one parent at home.
And so I ask: Do we accept losing? We are not educating these children. That’s a fact. Look at our test scores. Our poor, Hispanic, and black students are not proficient in reading and math. They will graduate without the skills to be successful in our world. And we accept this because we say it’s not possible to educate them. But that’s not true. It IS possible and it’s being done in districts all across the state. HOW is it possible?
The Brookings Institution recently released a study on the impact of a superintendent on student outcomes. It’s conclusion? Superintendents don’t really have much of an impact. Then what does? The community in which a student lives. Communities that are engaged and involved, that demand good outcomes, these communities produce successful students, regardless of the students’ race or economic status.
Are we engaged and involved? Oh yes, there is a lot of engagement currently. But that is focused on athletics and holiday parties and paid travel. What about engagement around academics? I don’t see much of that. I don’t see concerned parents and community leaders packing board meetings demanding better academic outcomes or higher college enrollment rates.
Prior to the 2014 election cycle, we had a long history of disinterest in our schools. Our Board of Trustee elections are largely unopposed affairs and even last year, when all of the races were contested, there was no debate about our poor academic performance. Neither incumbents nor challengers were asked to explain their plans for changing the status quo. Could that be because we don’t really believe we can do any better? That we accept losing?
I suggest that we accept losing academically because we don’t believe we can win. It doesn’t have to be true, but it will be unless we change our expectations.
Together, we can do better.