Congratulations! You Barely Met My Expectations

Michelle, we’d like you to know how much we’ve appreciated your presence and to let you know that we’ve come up with a new review and salary plan for your role here.

I am intrigued. Please sir, continue.

We’ve noticed that Bob is doing great at his job and you are sucking eggs at yours. In order for you to keep your job, we’ve decided to lower our minimum expectations of your work performance.

I am astonished. I protest.

But Bob was mentored into his role. He received extra training and hand holding. How can I compare when you just stuck me at a computer and left me alone for three years?

Your smile is magnanimous and you try to speak in small words.

This is the boo-boo we’re addressing. Don’t you see? You only have to show up and the next raise is yours!

He waits for my grunt of enthusiasm, but I continue to stare dumbly, as is my wont to do.

The next day, I come into the office wearing my pajamas, load up Netflix and microwave some popcorn. No point in doing much else.

I’ve been listening to the news and reading articles regarding the latest move by the state of Virginia’s education board. To address testing disparities among specific races (yes, let’s use that term), they’ve set different minimal standards for kids, depending on whether or not they are Asian (highest standards), White, Hispanic, Black or kids with disabilities. Before I jump in with a political correctness knee-jerk response, I want to say that I recognize the difficulty and expense of addressing the education gap. It seems nearly intractable, but not impossible.

We heard very little talk about the decimation of our country’s education system during this election cycle. Like infrastructure, it cannot be treated like a short term budget trick, trimming and cutting a little here and here and here. This will truly bite us all in the ass. For people without kids, your ass will be bitten too, because these kids are the economic crystal ball that determines quality of life in your dotage. It says a lot about our country that our war machine is well-oiled and maintained, while the machinery that educates our offspring lies rusting away under benign budgetary neglect.

What Virginia has decided to do is to take the most expeditious and least expensive route towards making their state education’s report card look good, in order to receive funding from the federal government. They, like 32 other states, get money while being exempt from portions of the federal No Child Left Behind program. Regardless of how you feel about the NCLB law, Virgina has lowered their expectations of the children in their state. They are focusing on a forward-looking goal by walking backwards.

I am not an educator, so I can only look at this issue from a personal and parental perspective. What impact does it have on a person’s psyche when they are told that the expectations for their performance is lower than that of the person next to them, because that is all they can manage? I would feel defeated before I even began.

Here’s the deal. It’s okay for Asians to have dumb ass kids and okay for blacks to have geniuses. Don’t institutionalize your inability to problem solve by telling kids that the baseline expectations for their performance are dependent on their race. We’ve been there, done that. We have some brilliant minds in this country, many of whom are products of a public education system. Time to put our creative minds, our imaginations and our money to work to realize a bright, intelligent future for our nation. We should expect nothing less of ourselves or of our children.

33 Comments on “Congratulations! You Barely Met My Expectations

  1. Here in Virginia in my town the lowest performing schools have been overachieving according to NCLB standards. But it’s been tough going. Cute intro and totally appropriate to your point.

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    • Good to get some perspective from a resident. I think it’s tough going everywhere for education.
      I spend a lot of time at my daughter’s school, where the reduced lunch rate runs at 70%+, but I’ve seen the teachers and administrators adapt and work hard to identify kids that need help.
      I have to believe that if we bring our resources to bear on the problem, that all kids can be held to reasonable, not different, standards.

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  2. Michelle, aaarrrgh! Education is one of my interests but somehow (despite living in Virginia!), I missed this abominable development. Maybe because I don’t have kids.

    This is a prime example of taking the easy out to make administrators look good (well, not as hideous, anyway) on paper, while throwing the kids under the bus; and it is also a huge insult to categorize people’s abilities according to their race. And what do they do with multi-racial children, I wonder? Default them to the “stupidest” category in their racial makeup?

    Gaaaahhhh! Come on, Virginia! ONE standard, ONE expectation, ONE definition of success. It’s not a real education otherwise… and in the long term? Here’s one possible result:

    “Mr. Smith, we can’t offer you the job. See, you’re black, and that means that your 4.0 GPA and all your advanced-placement courses were just a sham to boost your school’s overall numbers. We’re hiring Mr. Jones, because his white-bread 3.0 GPA is probably really better than your 4.0. Sorry.”

    OMG!!! Seriously??? Of course no one would ever come right out and SAY it, but… if these standards stick… in a state with a larger black population than average… oh, the problems that will follow. You can bet that black and Latino 4.0s really will depreciate.

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    • I just heard about this yesterday, but it stuck in my brain overnight. You are absolutely right about the long term results, both economically and psychologically being detrimental to groups that, according to their test scores, are already challenged.

      I don’t believe this policy would survive any kind of legal challenge, but it’s really appalling that anyone would think this was a good approach. I, personally, don’t think the NCLB law has done anything but twist the education system into knots – rewarding test scores, demonizing teachers and failing at the whole point of education. It should be to to give our children the opportunity to be functioning, well-rounded citizens, not little No.2 pencil circle fillers.

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    • There is an inclination when becoming a parent to want to do that. My husband and I both believe strongly in a public education system though, which will never improve if thoughtful parents and teachers abandon it.
      I do believe in doing things for the common good and also that my daughter will learn to live in a world where not everyone looks like or believes the same things she does. It is also part of her education. Making a world of us and them is why we have most of the problems we do today. I do understand the instinct and desire to protect your child, though!

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        • We tend to do a lot of things outside of school in addition to school, so I guess I feel pretty comfortable with her education. It’s an individual, family decision. We have a family next door with six kids that home schools and they seem happy with their decision.

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      • While I respect people’s choice to educate their children in the manner they feel is best, as well, thank you Green Study for so succinctly stating why we all need to not only support but also participate in public education. ~ Kat

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        • Education seems to be one of those touchy subjects that people feel defensive about – especially parents. I think it’s unnecessary, since we do have choices. Unfortunately for those of lesser means, not as many choices, hence the need to maintain a publicly provided education. I don’t believe in a voucher system, which just seems like another way to screw the poor and again, fails to take into account the common good.

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  3. Wham Bam, thank you ma’am. Your workplace example is right on target Michelle. That is precisely how education standards translate to the work environment. Lowering expectations is a lose/lose/lose proposition for experienced workers, job applicants and businesses. It’s the same with public school systems that have diverse populations. I know some passionate, talented, young teachers, not yet tenured, who have great ideas about how to spark a student’s desire for knowledge, to make recorded human history come alive and get students to think for themselves about it relates to the present, what lessons they can take away from it.

    Great teachers who have that ability become discouraged by federal mandates to teach the test, to cave to ridiculousness that our future existence boils down to who believes in evolution and who believes in creationism, to cover events from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the American Revolution in one week….Next slavery, oh wait, that’s an embarrassing time in our history, better to only skim the surface and move quickly through the Civil Rights Movement. How many know who Rosa Parks was and what a brave thing she did in the face of being not only ridiculed, but thrown in jail? Who knows where her courage came from? What other places in the world has there been slavery? Who sold slaves? What’s the difference between a slave and an indentured servant? Have governments ever sold people into slavery? Does slavery exist today? Where? Why?
    What other people throughout history also had courage? Why is having courage important? Who said, “The historical cycle seems to be: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to apathy; from apathy to dependency; and from dependency back to bondage once more.”

    Fractured, fragmented~that’s the future we get if someone doesn’t raise their hand.
    Nice Post!!!

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      • I’m not sure what fuzzy arguments are, but I absolutely agree with you that a thriving economy demands educated consumers, educated not only about the products and services they consume, but the impact on the environment as well as the future. Knowledge is power.

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        • Fuzzy arguments would be that having a solid education is good for the soul, for confidence, and for kids to grow up with a sense of history, a world view and choices. Some things are hard to translate into dollar arguments, so I think of them as “fuzzy”, as in, they give you the warm fuzzies.

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        • LOL 🙂 Okay, now I understand. Yeah, I guess I never thought that it might be difficult to show those things as having value. I get it. Thanks!

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  4. That is quite frightening. I’m trying to wrap my head around how the creators thought they were being helpful in some way, and it’s surprising that they didn’t think about the far-reaching effects on something like this. Not to mention, there don’t seem to be programs set in place to help minorities (or any lower scoring students) get higher scores, just a program to categorize them as a group that scores lower.

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    • That’s exactly what I think – changing the numbers doesn’t change the reality. I think it speaks of financial desperation and not good educational policy. It’s unfortunate that the state of the economy, lack of funding and artificial standards have pushed education entities to come up with plans like these.

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  5. Your thoughts are well-expressed and, as usual, I agree with your sentiments. However, we tried it that way before and got slammed by many minorities who cried “we deserve a break because……(fill in the blank.)” For example, in NYC, certain minorities were up in arms because they were not on “equal footing” with others o the Police dept. or Fire dept. exams (both physical and written.) Expectations were thus “lowered,” satisfying them and …. ta da! The quality of the departments saw a downslide. What’s the solution? I agree….everyone is capable of doing their best; but sometimes, your best won’t get you into a field (neurosurgeon) or position (CEO) because it’s just not good enough!

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    • I think that the wrong questions are being asked. Instead of saying “How do make everyone look qualified for graduation,employment, etc.?”, we should be asking “How do we make the majority of students qualified…”.

      It’s a tough problem to solve, but I have to believe that Virginia’s plan takes the system backwards. It’s one that I don’t think the education system should be expected to solve on its own, either, which is why cockeyed solutions are come up with in the first place. We, as citizens, parents, employers, etc. need to demand a shift in priorities in this country.

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  6. Um, that news that’s from the Onion right? It’s a joke…please? There’s no way real lawmakers or really anyone with the intelligence higher than a fruit fly would do this…right? Excuse me while I hide under my desk and weep for our apparently crumbling future while preparing myself to homeschool my children who haven’t even been born yet.

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    • It was a very surprising thing to hear, but as I mentioned to another commenter, plans like these are hatched out of desperate circumstances for schools scrambling to get funding, while struggling with real education problems. These problems can’t be solved in enough time to meet testing standards. So, they want to change the standards.

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    • I almost home-schooled my kinder when I found out he was put into a combination class with 17 first graders and 13 kinders for half-day kindergarten. That’s like having 90 minutes of school every day; movies are longer. Stupid budget cuts. I moved him to a private school and I am scrambling to make it work, but his education is just that important to me.

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      • I know a lot of families come up against tough decisions when it comes to education, especially in school districts with severe budgetary restrictions. My daughter’s grade level is a population boom – bigger than grades before or after, but we were very fortunate that they added another class, so the class size is running at about 23-24 kids. In a public school, that’s moderate in size.

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  7. Such a great and important post! I am in grad school for higher education administration and the education gap is something we talk about regularly, as K-12 experiences affect students in college. That being said, I think it is disgusting to classify certain students, based off a skin color, as less capable of succeeding. Now, I know this is all tied into socioeconomic status as well, but no one should be making gigantic assumptions on races, such as black people are all poor so they all receive a disadvantaged education so less should be expected of them. Really, what are we saying about our country when we adjust expectations based off of racial factors? Way to demoralize someone!

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    • That’s really the conversation that needs to take place – why do kids of lesser means perform worse and how do we address that problem? I think there a lot of organizations and community leaders trying to address these issues – there’s just no consensus on how to address the education disparities.

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      • Have you ever heard of Michelle Rhee? She previously worked in the Washington DC district as a big up in the education world. She focused on completely overhauling on K-12 system because we aren’t helping the children anymore. Her work is amazing, but it’s equally as amazing to see how many educational agencies, workers, and leaders pushed her out of the running quickly.

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        • I have heard of her – she had some good ideas, but became so divisive as things progressed, that she failed to gain internal support. We need somebody like her to get things rolling, but someone a little better at the politics and gaining cooperation.

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  9. The mismanagement of funds and lack of education will be the downfall of our society (country? human race?). We spend too much ruining lives and not enough enriching them. We need to put more money and expect more results from education than we do for “defense.”

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    • I agree with you – I think that we have to look at education as we do infrastructure – there needs to be long term investment and these are budgetary areas that can’t be hacked away at bit by bit.

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    • Another blogger and writer, Jim Allen at NuVote Reach, has been covering this issue much more in-depth than I, but apparently Florida has adopted similar standards, too. I just don’t understand why there isn’t more outrage, not just at the standards, but at the fact that the NCLB law is apparently NOT working. Instead, it’s encouraging horrible ideas like setting standards based on race.

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      • At best you’d have to say this theory is based on terrible statistics. Or a terrible misunderstanding of statistics and some truly malicious theorizing.

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