Meet Liam, who was slated to graduate from a Baltimore high school in June.
His mom, Tiffany France, learned last month that he won’t be graduating or standing with classmates to receive his diploma. He hasn’t earned enough credits, and administrators have bumped him all the way to the ninth grade.
Liam’s mom is furious, as well she should be.
The questions surrounding Liam’s predicament run the spectrum: Why didn’t his teachers and school administrators inform her? How could his scholastics be closeted for nearly four years?
The answer is easy: Liam was a child left behind.
He reportedly read at ninth level.
After nearly four years of high school, he had passed only three classes.
After nearly four years of high school, he had earned only 2.5 credits.
Liam’s transcripts, according to Fox45 News, show that he failed Spanish I and Algebra I but was promoted to Spanish II and Algebra II, and that he also failed English II but was passed on to English III.
Ms. France said that she was “assuming that if you are passing, that you have the proper things to go to the next grade and the right grades, you have the right credits.”
Her assumptions were right.
The problem, she came to learn too late, was that over three years Liam had flunked 22 classes and was tardy or absent 272 days.
Ms. France didn’t find out until February that Liam wouldn’t graduate in June, that teachers, administrators and bookkeepers long ago had begun leaving Liam behind.
A school district administrator told Fox45 that the system should not have failed Liam “because it has protocols and interventions set up to help students who are falling behind or have low attendance. In France’s son’s case, they didn’t happen.”
Liam (whose name I conjured to help shield his identity) isn’t the only student in the U.S. to play hooky, skip school without a permission slip from his parent or be shortchanged by the system. In fact, students registered in public school systems around the nation are “missing” school due to closures blamed on COVID-19.
But that the very public education systems designed to rescue children like Liam and save them from themselves left him behind is jolting.
“He’s stressed and I am too,” Ms. France told Project Baltimore, which probed Liam’s case. “I told him I’m probably going to start crying. I don’t know what to do for him.
“Why would he do three more years in school? He didn’t fail, the school failed him. The school failed at their job. They failed. They failed, that’s the problem here. They failed. They failed. He didn’t deserve that.”
She also said that if Liam works hard, he could graduate by 2023. Good for Liam if he does, because no child deserves the public schooling hand that Liam was dealt.
During COVID-19, teachers and students alike are complaining about the shortcomings of virtual learning, and parents are complaining about learning losses.
Imagine the lost credits, missed classes and absenteeism rates that have piled up since last March. Or will students get a pass because of the pandemic?
⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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