For the present state of education in America, budget issues and lack of funding is the norm. The struggling economy makes it difficult to create innovative curriculum, maintain and upgrade facilities, and establish needed student support programs and after-school programs. Budget issues also make it challenging to practice fairness and equity and make democratic decisions within the school community. Because of so much adversity in education, school staff, now more than ever, must be able to work together constructively, share leadership roles, and make democratic decisions in order to practice equity, create beneficial change, and improve student achievement.
At my school, Apollo High School, in the heart of east side San Jose, it is essential to practice equity and democratic decision-making because Apollo resides within a low socio-economic, majority Hispanic/Latino community. It is equally important to have an open dialogue with staff, students, and the community in order to achieve equity. Already with a disadvantage, students who enter Apollo are juniors and seniors with freshman and sophomore levels of credits. The students have all struggled in some way at their regular comprehensive sites (which are called their home schools). Whether problems at their home schools stemmed from academic issues, cutting classes, family or peer-related struggles, or anything else, Apollo students need a change of school environment. Students are given a second chance to become academically successful, but they must first feel accepted and comfortable in their new surroundings. Thus, all staff needs to take some leadership roles in figuring out the best ways to approach all students in an equitable manner, show empathy, motivate them, and get them back on track. Teachers at Apollo take on leadership and ensure equity in several ways.
First of all, teachers maintain very close contact with parents and students. We start the beginning of the year getting to know our homeroom students through autobiographies and other reflective, personal essays. We get to know their learning styles and backgrounds very quickly. This helps Apollo teachers to get know their students and connect with them a little. We also communicate to our students that we are here to serve them. We want each of them to feel comfortable approaching any teacher with questions or concerns. No matter what skill-level a student is at, we encourage all of them to do their best and reassure them that we will support them along the way.
Also within the first few weeks of school, teachers examine student transcripts and assessment data. Then, we set up their personal learning plans (PLPs), which are similar to transcripts. These PLPs are the plans that our students follow in order to get back on track and catch up on their credits. No matter how far behind on credits the students are, teachers set up the students’ PLPs to meet their specific needs. Each student is treated equally and provided as much attention, encouragement, and support as needed. In addition, teachers keep in close contact with students and their families outside of the school. Teachers acquire student contact information and introduce themselves to the families of students early on. A relationship is established in which parents and guardians are informed about their children’s academic progress and any issues that arise. There are also parent conferences after every grading period where teachers can have