Dreams inspired or dreams deferred

Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

August 17, 2013

After getting back to the all-important business of teaching and learning, the Sampson County school systems’ continued commitment to closing the achievement gap needs to be encouraged. The fact that both school systems have 100 percent control of their response to improving student achievement and their pursuit of more effective ways at making all students college and career ready should allow them to be as creative and innovative as they choose.

Some of the most obvious indicators that factor into the achievement gap are grades, test scores, and high school graduation rates. Other indicators that may not be as obvious include placement in special education and advanced placement courses, and suspension and expulsion rates. With this gap primarily affecting poor, minority and disenfranchised youth, it should be one of our top instructional priorities. Making improving student achievement a top instructional priority should encourage both school systems to find ways to expand the educational opportunities for all students, thus continuing to level the playing field.

One key factor in the quest to close the achievement gap is the quality of leadership on the part of the school staff. The recently named principal for Clinton High School, Dr. Steven Miller, has said he plans to focus on “reducing those gaps in student achievement with tenacity.”

Also, that quality of leadership must reach beyond the school into the community, communicating with parents and other stakeholders in improving student achievement to build better bridges between the school and home. With the support of the school, parents and general community, all students will thrive, resulting in greater educational outcomes.

Being a retired high school teacher, I have no reservations saying that those persons who will have the most direct impact on student outcomes will be our classroom teachers, standing on the front line each day, preparing to take on a tremendous challenge, that of assisting all children to succeed in school.

Increasing the reach of caring and effective classroom teachers will do more than anything else in positively impacting student achievement, thus validating the critical importance of teacher development programs.

With the start of the new school year just days away, are you that teacher who will create that memorable first day impression, awakening new ambitions that will motivate your students for a lifetime? Yes you can; you have that potential power and influence on every student you encounter, to be her or his “dream director.”

It is so important for all students to develop a positive awareness of self that will empower them “to go where their skills, desires and opportunities will take them.” According to Black Child Care author Alvin F. Poussaint, “Success improves the self-concept and makes it easier to take on the next challenge or tolerate the occasional failure.”

Creating and sustaining that classroom that values all students as being equally important will give all students a place they feel accepted, respected and protected. Lastly, on that first day of school, dreams will be inspired or they’ll be deferred. Dreams deferred will only have a negative impact on closing the achievement gap, so let’s all agree that every child deserves a dream.