In Texas, the last full week in October is very important. In most schools this is usually Red Ribbon Week, the annual alcohol, tobacco, and other drug and violence prevention awareness campaign observed in the United States, and of course, Halloween. If you work in a school, Halloween is a scary time on so many different levels. The kids are extra hyped up from the influx of sugar in their systems and you cringe at the potential of what students may attempt to wear to school. While Red Ribbon Week and Halloween are important, these events aren’t what I am referring to. The last Friday in October is the state’s Snapshot Date. To put it simply, the Snapshot Date is the date that determines whether or not students enrolled in your school will count towards your campus’ state accountability that school year. All students enrolled in your school as of that date are yours and all those that enroll after that day are not.
I understand why a snapshot date needs to exist. When you’re trying to determine how effectively a school is meeting the academic needs of its students, you need to ensure the school has had adequate time to work with the students that they are being held accountable for. That makes perfect sense. However, this has created a mindset that has really bothered me for some time now. The Snapshot Date has become the marker in the year that determines which kids matter and which kids do not.
Sometimes we justify this by saying we will catch them up next year but that’s flagrant educator malpractice. Whether a parent enrolls a student in our schools in August or February, they are expecting us to provide them with the same necessary effort and focus we are providing the students who started with us on day one. Most parents could care less about the state accountability of a school. Their focus, as it should be, is solely about their children.
In my opinion, it is not state accountability that has hurt education but rather our approaches to meeting state accountability that is the problem. We have placed meeting standards above meeting the needs of our kids. I am not judging anyone else because I was just as much a part of the problem. I may not have initiated the conversation but I stood by idly while it was happening. Then when I was pretty much in complete control as a principal, I passive agressively signed off on this reckless practice.
Now I do not want to give the impression that schools do not teach kids who enroll after the Snapshot Date. I would like to think that nobody is that egregious. It is more about who we consciously choose to give extra support. We sit in our data meetings and PLCs to determine how we can best support the struggling students on our campuses. The truth is there is only so much extra support you can provide and there are several determining factors as to who will get that support. Unfortunately, the kids enrolled before the Snapshot date get preference over those that enroll after, even if a student who enrolls after has the greater need.
This is because we have taken the human aspect out of schools. Referring to a kid as a student, subconsciously dehumanizes them. It’s essentially what we do when we talk about war and refer to collateral damage. Collateral damage is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target, usually civilians, during war. Hearing the term collateral damage is much more digestible than hearing the words innocent men, women and children. When we look at kids as just students, we are seeing them as collateral damage.
This is why we have to intentionally focus on prioritizing relationships back in schools. Restorative Practices provides the process for doing just that. The biggest misconception about Restorative Practices is that it is about pacifying misbehaving students at the detriment of others. This is far from the case because I would not be a part of anything close to resembling that. I am in 100% support of zero tolerance when it comes to students misbehaving. If a student breaks a rule or violates another person, I believe there should always be an appropriate response. My issue is with zero tolerance policies. These policies have made educators more reliant on the efficiency of discipline matrixes rather than the effectiveness of appropriately holding students accountable for their actions. When you have established a relationship with a person, you tend to do what’s in their best interest because you care about them. It is so much easier to exclude someone you are not connected to. Hence, this is why the Snapshot date has become an unintended problem.
If teachers were doing weekly Community Building Circles for just about 30 minutes with their classes, imagine the connections that they would make. Right now when a new student named Samantha comes into your classroom in January, there is no connection and very little time to develop one. In this scenario if Samantha is struggling, she would be one of those students not included in the strategic intervention plan because she enrolled after the Snapshot Date. But if you were circling weekly with your class, you would have a chance to know Samantha as a person and recognize that she is more than a student who enrolled too late. She is a kid who needs some additional support. But more importantly, she is your kid and needs your support regardless of when her parents enrolled her in the school. The power of proactively building relationships in school is that it forces us to realize that all kids matter.