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Graduation is a special time for families.  Students take the spotlight

grad 3whether it’s the now-celebrated moving  on from kindergarten




Pasadena High School Graduation

or the old-time high school or university academic accomplishment.      unnamed

Praises, shouts, slaps on the back and the tossing of the university mortar boards high into the air signal that our kids have made us proud.

The month of June brings forth a new beginning — for those who’ve been able to  march to the beat, that is.

By beat I’m not meaning “Pomp and Circumstance,” the traditional marching music played as graduates take their place on the field or in the school auditorium.

There’s a rhythm that takes place early in the school experience, and for many young students and their families, graduation is a hard-fought battle they shouldn’t have to fight.


The fourth-grade teacher wasn’t happy to find us visiting her classroom. But being a parent of one of her students gave me every right to be there.

Unhappy with homework my fourth-grader was handing in that was full of errors that were never marked as incorrect, I had decided to see this education operation first-hand.

I watched in astonishment as Ms. Teacher led her students through their morning paces. But what was more disturbing was some of what the teacher had on display on the classroom walls and on the counter.



Not only was this fourth-grade schoolmarm letting my kid get away with a plethora of inaccuracies, but also it was clear from her own spelling that she didn’t know up from down.



Parents need to observe their children’s teachers in action. Parents need to review their children’s homework — sometimes get them to redo it to make it better but sometimes to let them hand it in “as is” and see what the teacher is accepting as accurate.

“My teacher didn’t say it was spelled wrong,” said my irritated daughter when she proudly handed me her homework that had been reviewed, corrected by the teacher and handed back.

“More than one cat does not become catties,” I tried to explain. “A puppy is one, and more than one becomes puppies, BUT not for cats.”

Too often the professionals in our children’s lives are perceived to operate on a higher level than are busybody parents.

I went to see the school principal with the photos we took in the classroom. The principal defended the teacher, saying all things were not up to standard because the teacher was new on the job.

This didn’t sound like paving a path for academic excellence and a chance to make it to that high school graduation.


This experience is not an isolated example. It is one of the kind of learning conditions that play out in schools minority students attend where there are no watchdog parents holding school people accountable.

I have said my kids succeeded educationally in the Pasadena Unified School District, not because of it but in spite of it.

By sixth grade, the practices of PUSD were so detrimental to the health and wellbeing of this daughter that, as an old lady (which I was/am), I opted for homeschooling.

The final insult came when her PE teacher saw no reason to honor my request to keep her off the field due to fires burning in the foothills, Santa Ana winds and 100-degree temperatures. “She is asthmatic,” my note and the one from the doctor spelled out.

dog 1

Oxygen and hospital therapy dog. From a young age, she was hospitalized with asthma almost every year.

The principal seemed not to have any jurisdiction in the matter. Addressing the school board members at their meeting didn’t make any difference either.

Is this a diatribe against the school district? Just the opposite. It is a message to all minority parents who don’t understand that the education system has to be made to work for them/us. It doesn’t just happen.

The reason Jakari, Jerome and Juan can’t read isn’t just because the schools are bad; it is for a large measure because parents haven’t demanded the best.

After three years of homeschooling, daughter was back in regular school with an IEP — Individual Education Plan — that spells out specifics and calls for regular meetings with administrators and teachers.

“She’s doing great in my class,” said the Spanish teacher who ran his classroom like nobody needed to learn much.

“Oh, yes, she’s getting a C,“ I responded.

“Well, she’s not getting a D or an F,” he replied.

“But she’s not getting an A or a B,” I said.

These are the kind of insults minority parents encounter when they interact with the schools.

These are the kind of insults that keep parents from doing what’s needed of them to get their kids to be part of the “Pomp and Circumstance” march on graduation day.


The school district touts high graduation rates:

“While not achieving the the peak rates of 2013, Pasadena Unified School District graduation rates for 2015-16 held steady at just over 80 percent, according to a presentation to the Pasadena Board of Education by Dr. Shawn Bird, Pasadena Unified’s Chief Academic Officer”
But I suggest this Pasadena report is questionable.

The national graduation rate of 83.2 percent also has raised questions about its reporting mechanisms, which furthers the case not to accept Pasadena’s touted 80 percent.

‘The apparently good news about America’s high school graduation rate — it has hit a modern record of 83.2 percent — should come with a warning label: Students from low-income families are still lagging far behind other kids. Grad rates are up across the board, but if you compare students from low-income families to students who are not low income, there is a gap of about 14 percentage points”.

In my work, I encounter Pasadena’s 20 percent of non-graduates — and also the more truthful national gap for low-income families counted in the 14 percentage figure who aren’t reading, writing or doing ’rithmetic.



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