The "low performing" designation under NCLB means that for at least two years we have not performed adequately in at least one of many areas measuring school performance, including graduation rates and student scores on the state standardized reading and math tests, called the Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), which are administered to grades three, five, eight, and 10.
But the state gets to grade us, too. The Oregon Department of Education releases school report cards to the public each year. This past school year, Roosevelt slipped from "unsatisfactory" to "unacceptable" in the Oregon ratings because too few of our students passed the state CIM reading, writing, and math tests, attended school in high enough numbers each day, or remained in school for four years.
Behind the Labels
Since the beginning of the 20th century, North Portland has been the metropolitan area's dumping ground for industrial waste. In the past, cattle yards and slaughterhouses poured their refuse into the Columbia Slough, a waterway that snakes through the community. On many mornings, the air blowing over the Roosevelt tower reeks from the bitter fumes spewing from waste incinerators and pulp mills, causing our eyes to sting and our throats to burn.
Hunger and unemployment plague our community. Our students don't always eat three meals a day. Many of them help support themselves or their families by working until 11:00 or midnight in many of the fast food joints that saturate the community. Then they have to get up to make it to school by eight o'clock the next morning. Many students move two to three times during the school year when their families face evictions, job loss, or domestic violence.
Being labeled "unacceptable" has been demoralizing for my students and colleagues at Roosevelt. This designation codifies the stigma that students from Roosevelt experience around Portland. My students have described security staff trailing them in stores, police randomly stopping them as they walk down the street, and strangers on the bus insulting them for speaking Spanish in public. My students know that their school is perceived as a "ghetto" school and is called "Looservelt" by students from other high schools.