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Black “History” Month

I know that this blog may get a bit of comments but I’ve been thinking about this lately and feel that it is necessary to discuss this.

Before I start saying anything, I want to apologize for being MIA. So, Hello everyone. I hope everyone is enjoying the 2009 so far.

February is known as Black History Month in America. However, I would much rather call it Black Heritage Month. At Life Academy, we have “Advisory Challenges.” Students and teachers make posters and post them around the school asking “Who is this person and what did he or she do?” The challenge for this month is to see which advisory can find out the most information of these people. Upon this challenge, I started to contemplate about Black History Month. After listening to a poem about Black History Month and thinking about this some more, I came to the conclusion that I would rather not call February Black History Month. Here are my reasons/questions that I have:

  • Why is February, the shortest month, Black History Month?
  • If February is Black History Month, does that mean every other month is white history?
  • Is black history not the same thing as American history?
  • America is said to be diverse and we are trying to bridge racial gaps. If we are trying to bridge racial gaps, why is there a month for a certain race of people? I know that they’re one of the people that built this country and suffered a lot in America, but what about all the other “minorities” and people that have made changes in America? What about the Native Americans? What about the Asians? What about the Latinos?
  • Did you know that March is Women’s History month?
  • Did you know that May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage month?
  • Did you know that June is Gay Lesbian Pride month?
  • Did you know that Hispanic-Latino History month is from September 15-October 15?
  • Did you know that October is Disability Employment month?
  • Did you know that November is American Indian Heritage month?

The patterns between most of the other months in the year is that they are Heritage months and not History months. Another thing all the other months have in common is that none of them are as big as Black History Month. I believe that we must learn our history to move forward and not make the same mistakes. However, we must learn our history as a whole, not as Black History, Asian, Latino, or Women History but as American History. We cannot expect to learn our history as a whole if we dedicate one month of the year to learn about “one type” of history. If we learned our history, as humans, as a whole, then on months like February, we can have Black Heritage Month, whereas versus learning Black History, we are learning Black Heritage.

That’s all I have to say. I am sorry if I offended anyone.

Please leave all of your thoughts here.

Bryant Phan, a student-blogger, is in 10th grade at Life Academy.

bphan

  • Daniel

    Some interesting points, but also be sure to look up Carter G. Woodson for the “history” of Black History Month. February wasn’t chosen because it was the shortest month! Thanks for sharing. Good food for thought.

  • Sara

    I thought that was very well said. You are absolutely right – why single out one group once a year as if they are not important the rest of the year. If we are going to have special events for Black History Month, we should be having special events for all the other groups’ months, but of course that isn’t going to happen. We seem to give the Latinos and Asians and all the other groups short shrift. Why not just study the lives of all Americans who made this country. It seems divisive to single out one group when this country was made by a multitude of people from a multitude of countries.

  • stephanie

    i was about to say may is API heritage month. xD
    true that though. black history, asian history, all that jazzamadooha IS american history. we are, after all, all americans.

  • Andrew

    Some good points! i like the part about america trying to be diverse and not racist, but these history months dont let this happen. keep up the work bryant! u r going in a good direction with this.

  • Nora

    Interesting points. I do wonder why February was chosen for this particular event. Also, your thoughts/reasons really get me wondering about Black History Month. Well done. :)

  • John

    For those not in the know, White European American History Day is February 29th! I almost missed it last time around due to a root canal appointment conflict that I cancelled so I could attend a White European History Fifty Man March, but it got picketed as being a Klu Klux Klan gathering and the city had the cops tell us our event permit was cancelled, then I woke up.

  • Nextset

    If the schools bring race into the classrooms they have only themselves to blame when every other race wants equal time. Same thing with religion. The schools also can expect to see the racial conversations take turns they didn’t plan for. If there are Black clubs and classes there can be White clubs and classes, not to mention LaRaza. And when every race especially the Whites want to publicly discuss the bad behavior of the others you have to sit still and let them talk. Well, that would be instructive I suppose.

    Balkanization in secondary schooling, and in the USA is a mistake.

  • jumoke

    Peace!

    Great study of culture and history.

    YES, Black History is American history the same is true for every other ethnic minority celebrated in this country.

    We should teach about difference, if not to simply find the ways in which we are the same, create emphathy and appreciate who we are!

    So obviously, Black History month was not the dominate culture groups idea…come on now ya think in the forties leaders of this country were really trying to instill pride in the Negro american. Read any history book and ya know that was not the case. Just the opposite…Jim Crow was the course of the day, sharecropping, amazing theories on racial inferiority – they had moved beyond the bible…well not the KKK. So yes we can relish in the fact that some Negro’s, well one imparticular thought it fitting to uplift his people through study, scholarship and racial pride.
    Carter G Woodson was the man…if you read his writings today you would think he was talking about the injustice of social conditions of the 21st Century.
    Amazing life story…take time to check it out.

    So why February…I thought I was being short changed growing up. Well, actually, growing up I only had Negro History Week! Now we have a month!
    February was choosen to honor greatness. The month that Fredrick Douglas was born…Now that was my hero. My first book that I read everyday – my favorite book I would ask my dad to read that book to me, too.

    So change the paradigm…see it through a black man’s eyes. Carter G Wooodson wanted us to honor the greatness of Douglas, inspire us to learn more about who we were and are to this great country AMERICA.

    thanks for your study of great American Sheroes (Harriet Tubman was the other book I read daily!) and Heroes.

    Bryant keep the history alive!!!! Hooray for your teachers…they are ensuring that you are a critical thinker that will be successful in the world!!!

    Don’t worry about offending anyone…not too many folks are willing to address the painful truths of this country. Why look at yourself when you can have contempt for others and survive! Denial is powerful!

    Continue to BE the Change that will Heal us….
    You are the leader we have been praying for!!

  • John

    Jumoke, a toke, and some heavy listening Afro Americana with Jimi Hendrix.

    From his magic mushroom dream speech?:

    “I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

    WOW!

    How come Hendrix never gets any press during Afro American History month!? I suspect he was too much into white European American hippie culture to qualify for this particular Hall of Fame venue?

  • aly

    bryant,

    i used to have similar thoughts when i was in high school: why are we singling out groups when our country is supposed to be this melting pot and doesn’t it further our division by recognizing by race/ethnic heritage instead of just celebrating all americans all year?

    as i have gotten older and thought more on the issues, i believe that the “salad bowl” view of america is a more realistic and healthy perspective than the “melting pot.” that means that we recognize the differences and unique qualities that make up each group of americans so that all americans can appreciate and celebrate the perspectives and accomplishments of all. when we try to “melt,” we ask people to act as though we are all the same, coming from the same place with the same traditions, and that is when tension mounts.

    so why black history/heritage month? why are the others not as recognized? black history month, as jumoke points out, started out as a week that carter woodson felt was necessary given the negativity and lack of information on their own accomplishments that black americans were faced with due to social and government paradigms. it was a grassroots, self-promoted event that grew and forced america to pay attention.

    in order for more groups to gain similar attention and celebration, it falls on them to promote themselves and educate people. i encourage you to communicate with your teachers and make sure that all are recognized throughout your school year. you have certainly made a difference for me, and i will be sure to be more mindful each month to recognize and celebrate our diverse american heritage.

    ps- february was chosen not because of frederick douglass’ birthday, which is a nice coincidence, but because it is the month in which slaves learned about the 13th amendment and began to exercise their freedom :-)

  • John

    Today’s ‘salad bowl’ schools are infinitely more focused on the freeing of the slaves and the civil rights movement than the origin and meaning of “our” 13th amendment.

    Perhaps now that we reportedly have a black President Abraham Lincoln (sometimes FDR) incarnate, also a “constitutional law professor,” perhaps learning about the 13th amendment, and others, will become a priority in our public schools, NOT.

    Say, instead of a holiday acknowledging a long dead, decomposed and musty Abraham Lincoln perhaps we could trade him in for the new improved incarnated version? Although we may want drop the “Abraham,” Palestinian terrorists might take offense given the historical connection of this name with a prominent Jewish historical figure.

    I know, let’s change his name to ‘President Lincoln Logs’ incarnate! After all, the original Lincoln was “born in a log cabin” made out of cherry trees dishonestly cut down by George Washington who owned slaves. But I could be as wrong about this (except for the slave part) as a high school text book.

    Peace?

  • aly

    john, is your bitterness because you can’t wear the klan hood in public anymore or because you are losing your ability to maintain dominance based solely on the color of your skin instead of the value of your ideas?

    given the lack of clarity and sensibility of your posts, i’m going to guess the latter is most likely the case.

    if you need to be taught the history of OUR constitutional amendments, my black, brown, yellow and proud students would be happy to school you anytime.

  • Nextset

    Aly: As you can see with your exchanges with John, don’t think you can run your Black so and so activities at public schools without getting backlashes about White, Jewish or etc pride and long discussions about black shortcomings.

    You are wrong to run the afrocentric material in such a way at public schools. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    And yes, the melting pot model is superior to the fruit salad model. The melting pot is all about the position that as Americans we all have one core set of values such as honesty, duty and perhaps nationalism. Fruit salad means that each group stands for different things that occasionally overlap but generally not.

    Which is why we have the current reality where urban blacks maybe don’t have a clue about mores that the rest of the nation considers unassailable. Ditto muslims who want to keep their kids in their own schools and other fringe groups & cults.

    It’s like living in a town where a segment of the population doesn’t understand right of way traffic rules.

    Our public schools were once here to make sure that our kids – including our foreign nationals living here and our underclass – were clued into the rules. Now we don’t think they have to be taught anymore. Too bad for the underclass kids… They will not rise as they have in the first half of the 20th century.

    The afrocentric bs in the schools is just one more thing to keep the black kids busy with tribal dress, tribal values and tribalism in general. They would be better off studying the proper use of the verb to be.

    Tribalism, like religion, has no place at all in the public schools. It belongs at home just as religion does and for the same reasons. School is not to reinforce tribalism, it is supposed to ensure the students have social mobility, as in go to UC and into the professions, or go to military with higher rank, etc.

    You have the nerve to equate critism of your position with the klan? You have no idea of the social forces that will keep your students from rising in the Brave New World. It won’t be the klan, it will be the nice people – liberals many of them, who won’t hire your afrocentric student as a parking lot attendant. Because that doesn’t fit into their plans for their cars (or their lives).

  • John

    Aly, how do you add those cute yellow smiley faces? They give real substance to your posts. Try to include them more often.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Peace?

  • aly

    “And yes, the melting pot model is superior to the fruit salad model. The melting pot is all about the position that as Americans we all have one core set of values such as honesty, duty and perhaps nationalism. Fruit salad means that each group stands for different things that occasionally overlap but generally not.”

    Nextset, i think you are misunderstanding what the salad bowl represents. it is a cultural reference, not values-based. it has nothing to do with what we stand for, but where we come from. when we ask all americans to assimilate to “american” culture (which is really just a product of white dominance), rather than retain their cultural pride and identity, then we are asking for trouble. people become bitter and angry when told that in order to survive, they have to forsake their language, religion, clothing, foods, rituals, etc, in order to “fit in.”

    there is nothing tribalistic or afrocentric in my curriculum, so i again will have to call you out for jumping to bizarre conclusions. we learn about the accomplishments of ALL groups of people in this country instead of just the white ones.

    and maybe this is what john and you don’t get: our history books are completely dominated by the stories of white history. white pride is instilled in our educational system from the moment the kids start learning in public schools, which is why you don’t need a “european american heritage” day. it is EVERY day. the reason minority-centered celebrations came around is because all other groups were being ignored.

  • Nextset

    Aly: I guess all this is why people want to be in your school. I can see the waiting list forming.

    Public Schools have no business teaching “cultural pride and identity”. And as far as the “dominant” culture – your students had better learn it well. From the achievement stats put out every year it appears that OUSD just can’t teach it.

    And let’s be clear – I don’t believe your policy will help your students rise in thie Brave New World. On the contrary, I believe you are wasting precious education time. I believe your tribal lessons will result in students who don’t fit in – and they will never know what they missed. But you will pacify them.
    Because you will have told them they don’t have to fit in.

  • Bryant

    Nextset: It’s not that OUSD can’t teach the “dominant” culture well enough, it’s students like us that aren’t 100% interested in learning about a culture that does nothing but oppresses us.

    I believe that Aly’s way of teaching will bring the world much more intelligence than your way of thinking ever will.

    What is education anyways if you can’t use it to help the world? What is education if all you’re going to use it for is to make money and oppressing everyone else doing so? What is education if no one but you can benefit from it?

    And believe me, we don’t have to fit it. Fitting in is the reason why we are all at gunpoint. Fitting in is the reason why the world is the same.
    However, if people like Aly and I are willing to take a stand, and become “the different one” in order for the world to change, so be it.

  • Sick of Nextset

    Could we please ban the words “Brave New World” from this blog?

    By the way, I heard about how some newspapers have developed a way to make trollers think that their comments are being published, when it fact only the troller can see his/her comments. Could the Tribune look into that feature?

    Now that would be a Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Sick: Glad to hear it.

    Brave New World.

    You see, some people, like you, need to have their noses rubbed into the fact that the USA is changing and not for the better. While you (liberals?) continue down the path of blissful, we’ll-fix-everything legislation, the side effects of the great society type legislation is turning the USA into a jungle of rich vs poor with little left between. We now have a hereditary aristocracy with a hereditary underclass with less and less social mobility, complete with assortive mating starting at pre-school. Our public schools are destroyed (as a means of social mobility) – first in the urban areas and then everywhere else. Government policy is more and more diseugenic with average IQ being pushed down. The electorate is becoming dumber and easier to fool. And we are in the process of delivering the country to a police state through (first) collapse of law and order & superinflation.

    Those with experience in economic history have no question of what is happening.

    Blacks – an endangered species – need education and training to fit into the economy and society. Afrocentrism will be a significant disadvantage in comparison. It’s coming down to survival skills (as in skilled labor). In an education blog you would expect the focus to be on what we can do for the OUSD contituient students that will help them get earning power in their lifetimes. Not focusing on Afrocentrism or making them feel peachy keen about themselves as 17 year olds.

    Life in the USA is about to get very dicey very fast. Affirmative Action is dead and you can’t have it in a depression where the Government itself is expected to lose power or worse (read what happens in a superinflation). The only thing OUSD needs to focus on is getting the student’s verbal and math skills up along with deportment and ability to function in society. Any focus on “I’m special” or “they owe me” is going to hold the child back.

    When the nation has a cold the blacks have pnuemonia. We had better innoculate them while their is still time.

    Oh, and another thing – Sick – Grow up and join the USA. You don’t get to “ban” ideas you don’t like. Do You Understand?? I wouldn’t even talk to you individually. This is public discourse. One of the tenants to liberal thinking is that ideas liberals (radicals) don’t like can be suppressed. This is taught to black students in school so it’s a big shock when they slip out into the real world and someone goes nose to nose with them with words they don’t want to hear. The way it works is that you have to live in the world where other people speak their minds – and if their ideas and throughts catch on, others say the same. You don’t get to regulate the political speech of others, Ever. Understand that??

  • Nextset

    Bryant: I understand your position, I think. You believe that secondary school is a Burger King where the students can have things their way. Especially you believe the students should choose their subjects and take what pleases them.

    That is no surprise. Poorly raised Students – at least Urban Students – think they should do what they want, when they want, if they want.

    Well that’s not the way life works. What your describe is a school that is interested in appeasement not education (or training).

    You only have 3 or 4 years of high school to take enough education to be able to manage yourselves in the military, private industry or higher education (or prison/streets). It is no secret what the statistics are for the OUSD kids as to who goes where. It is the duty of OUSD to prepare the students to the extent possible for life at age 18.

    I don’t have a problem with a fling, a hunch, a creative interest, etc.. that’s why we have electives. However I do require a public school to cover the state requirements and to reasonably try to get the students to pass the exit exam. Mind you that for some students that will never happen and we can see that by 9th grade. Still, OUSD will do what it can for them.

    OUSD has a mission. I believe the miserable scores and vocational results to date do not argue for much if any Afrocentric nonsense. That’s just my opinion. Do what you want.

  • wtf nextset??

    of course you would opt for students to go into the military, nextset, an occupation that provides 212 job skills and none of them transferable to the civilian world.

    standardized tests and state requirements do not help students in the real world. yes, at my high school i CAN have it my way. students like me can intern at places that we want, and take classes that we want. we can pursue our passions, and we are encouraged to do so. and yet, i passed the high school exit exam on the first try, as well as scored a 68 out of 80 on my psat. apparently, there IS a method to our madness.

    having students discover their “cultural pride and identity” is not a bad thing. on the contrary, i think it motivates student to form better work habits and actually try to achieve. who really wants to work hard just to feed the system that oppresses us?

    so you can go on working your 9 to 5 job at a big corporation all your life in hopes of living the american dream. we’ll go on learning our “Afrocentric nonsense” and see where it takes us.

  • Nextset

    wft nextset: You are obviously a student.

    So here’s a lesson.

    Military service wasn’t my choice. I had other choices. Huge numbers of people don’t have the choices I had. When you grow up you may meet – or learn about – the hordes of people in the United States who used the military to escape the pre-programmed fate that was set for them by their circumstances. There are a LOT of goodies tied to military service that can be used by foreign nationals and poor people all over this country to get into skilled labor, higher education and the professions in the USA.

    My father & grandfather, uncles, were veterans – no surprise for the times. Their service was connected to professional training and practice. In my own career I was trained by WWII veterans. So I know how military service can take cannery workers to Law and Medicine. I have seen foster children who had nothing – no home, no family and no-one to take care of them – go into the military, travel and live around the world for 10 years or so – and eventually settle into civillian life as higher earning skilled workers. These particular people would have been expected to be (prematurely) dead just like their parents.

    Some foolish people here think that I am touting militarism because I mention it here. Quite the opposite. I see that our urban public schools help disqualify people for military servive so that’s one more avenue of escape closed to black and underclass youth thanks to politically charged educators who do not see their responsibility as improving the mortality rates of their students. A graduating student from OUSD should be qualified to enter the military is they want to use that option, not disqualified due to rotten verbal skills and deportment problems. Yes, the black military disqualification rate is huge and larger than any other ethnic group. I believe the public school failures are involved in the miserable failure rate.

    Public schooling is supposed to open doors and create opportunity. It can’t do that when it’s products are carefully taught not to speak standard english. OUSD verbal scores are at or near the lowest in the state/nation. Black English doesn’t cut it in this Brave New World.

    And as far as racial pride, Students like you don’t need any until you have your own accomplishments to be proud of. Racial Pride is tribalism. There is no place for it in public school. (Although I do know of people in LA who go to Jewish Secondary Schools…)

    I don’t need to change your mind – live your life any way you want. While you are young you still have opportunities to move one way or another. You can’t see the doors closing, you might hear them. As you get older you may notice that people are slipping away. I see young people growing up and no longer acknowledging on the street people they once went to school with. At some point you will have to decide which side you want to be with.

    And another thing – psat scores are interesting, but there is more to making it in society than that. The competiton in OUSD has not prepared you at all for what you will face in a competitive college or university. Your post clearly shows that to me. And you don’t even realize it. You will have in interesting time, I think.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset, I would never seek to ban anybody, but more people might read your posts if you posted less often and used fewer words. I know I have stopped doing all but the most cursory skimming of your increasingly epic essays.

  • cranky teacher

    OK, but I did re-skim enough to see one ridiculous falsehood that shouldn’t be allowed to stand: That OUSD has an “Afrocentric” focus, or even a multicultural focus lo, these last few decades.

    In fact, the “progressive ed” or multicultural focus or “social consciousness” teachers in OUSD are a small minority of rebels at the bottom of the system food chain, and always have been — and are almost completely nonexistent in the district administration. While the school board in the ’80s got a lot of press over Ebonics, the schools have always been churning out a dry distillate of discipline-based, state-mandated, textbook-and-worksheet dependent teaching.

    To blame a “counterculture” of teachers for the product of its avowed opposite (and enemy), the dominant educational bureaucracy, is just inane.

    But hey, don’t let that get in the way of your stereotyping of and army of clueless, guilty white liberal teachers trying to hug black kids into college!

  • Nextset

    Cranky, that last line was like nothing I would write… priceless.

    How is this for short – proof is in the pudding. When OUSD shows decent stats people will respect it.

    And I am tired of being the skunk at the garden party.

  • aly

    a big “yes!” to bryant, cranky, wtf and sick of. i agree… cranky, i apologize for the length that follows!

    nextset, since you are so keen to tell us how to do our jobs, might i inquire as to what your occupation is? i’d also like to know the last time you set foot in a high school. these are genuine inquiries, not rhetorical questions.

    everything you say about curriculum and how we treat our kids is so absolutely bass ackwards there is no way you have experience to back it up. it is astounding how many unfounded generalizations you make when discussing what and how we teach our kids.

    the sad part is that we agree on much of how this world is and what it is becoming, but you are such a condescending know-it-all, it makes it painful to admit we have ideas in common.

    our students are NOT taught that they get what they want, when they want. there absolutely is not a sense of “they owe me.” in fact, black history is taught to teach students about the incredibly hard work it took for people of color to become recognized and treated as equals by whites in this country. we don’t teach about slavery or reparations; we teach about the upstanders and their quest to use knowledge as their weapon. we teach about the value of being educated and how that is what will truly help you survive life as a minority. fair or unfair, we are a “tribalistic” society. i teach my kids that because to do otherwise would be a lie and THAT would leave them unprepared for real life. if no one ever taught them the rules of the game, how in the world could they ever expect to win?

    i know it pains you to see your assumptions proven wrong, so there is no doubt you’ll make another cheap, snarky remark about how great my school is and the line that’s forming, but know this: by teaching reading and writing skills using a curriculum that focuses on the people i serve and not the people that dehumanize them, my students’ english test scores rose 15% last year. it was the only high school english class in the DISTRICT to have made double-digit gains.

    black history month, and other heritage or culturally based celebrations, have ZERO negative impact on our students’ educations. is reading “narrative of the life of frederick douglass” or “a lesson before dying” instead of “romeo and juliet” somehow dumbing my students down? will writing character analysis essays that integrate historical situations somehow limit their horizons? maybe it will be when we read “escape from slavery” in march that i destroy my kids’ futures. or perhaps i’ll handicap them when we read “breaking through” in may. i’m not sure why this literature will only make them fit for a job at the local BK and prevent them from surviving our “bnw.” please, enlighten me.

    *the quotes are used for book titles because i wasn’t sure if comments are html enabled

  • aly

    ps- wtf: if you are comfortable posting it, i’d love to know where you go to school. we are trying to make more vocational ed available where i teach and it would be great to have a program we could link in with.

    congratulations on your psat scores, too. your thoughtful argument and evidence in your post make it clear that you are going to have a great time in college and your classes will benefit from your perspective.

    my only advice: drop the abbreviation/foul language if you want people to hear you. like it or not, we are judged for everything we do. using “wtf” in your handle only makes it easier for people to ignore what you say as they stupidly think they were right all along. they are the ones you need to force into appreciating you; the rest of us already do.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset, I am not asking you to respect the status quo of OUSD, or its results. I don’t.

    Where we disagree is on assessing what that status quo is — in other words, how the sausage is getting made. You have been blaming people who are not actually making the decisions that matter.

  • Nextset

    Aly: I’ve previously posted bio and will again later – but on another thread. I’m getting tired of this one. It’s too much to rehash everything. You are late to some of what I’ve been saying in previous posts.

    In a nutshell I suppose you and your students are born yesterday compared to myself and my experiences – thus the gap between our ways of thinking. I see your comments – I’ve heard the same thing for decades now. If we let you continue your way, you believe things will change and all will work out. Well, no. Things just get worse – the stats and scores get worse and the behavior gets worse.

    I will tell you my family has over 4 generations of teachers (certain members at certain times) going back into the 19th Century. From Black segregated schools through integration to the present – secondary, college & grad school educators, State Schools to Black Colleges. The extended family is out of education and into Professional and Technical occupations now. I am comfortable that I know what works and what doesn’t in (black) education. What leads to success and what doesn’t.

    Thus my comments about OUSD and what it is doing to the students. You can’t expect us to agree on much at all – you are doing things based on what feels good now. I’m not. Our brand of education usually didn’t feel so good in the making anyway. And you must understand that I don’t require approval from you & the students here. All I’m interested in is results. Are your students doing better in life than was expected for them?

    Have a nice weekend.

    Cranky: The current education decline is largely because of politicians and the courts. The teachers are swept along in the tide. I don’t think teachers should be punished for bad students. I do believe teachers should be punished when that don’t get results from a given block of students that are reasonably expected.