Frances Berrones-Johnson

Raising the Bar on Student Achievement

Rosalynn Carter, wife of ex-President Jimmy Carter states it so well when she says: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” Henry Kissinger echoed this sentiment in his statement “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” 
That, I truly believe, is the role of today’s teachers. That statement should be the pre-eminent objective of each TPHS teacher: to bring our students – the very reason we do what we do – to a place where they need to be. A place where they need to be not just because the state says so, but because we know well that in bringing them to that place, they will fare well in higher education, the job market and in life in general. We need to know who we are and what our role is in this whole scheme of education. It begins by knowing who we are by assessing our assets and deficits – boning up on what is needed and capitalizing on what we know we are strongest in. We must very clearly understand that in our role as educators we are true leaders with the power to influence. We must understand the people for whom all this effort is being made. We must value our constituents and where they came from. With that in mind we can then go forward and prepare to prepare them for a higher level of operation. 
In the famous movie “Stand and Deliver” teacher Jaime Escalante expounds that students will not only rise to the level we have set for them but they will exceed those expectations. This happens when there is an environment in which both vision and goals are clear. The single “way out” here is “Success Only. No excuses. Just ace-high results. PERIOD.” Failure is not one of the doors we can open. This will require that we raise the bar; that we explain that the bar is a good level but a level that can be exceeded. We must then, in everything we do, create the environment and ambience in which our students believe so much in their capacities and abilities that they know unequivocally well that they can consistently knock our socks off. We must set the expectation that we care about them and believe in them so much that knocking our socks off is to be a way of life at our schools. Shearson Lehman Brothers had a motto in the early 1980’s. “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. And the actions that speak louder than the words. It is making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time, year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of, the power to change the face of things. It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.” Commitment is being a “no excuses” team player. It exemplifies believing in the team and believing in the fans. It is thinking about “we” and not just “me.” That is a TPHS quality. 

Success Only. No excuses. Just ace-high results. PERIOD.

Our campuses will soar because we share a strong belief in the students because our team players believe in the program, believe in the unit and play as a team. Good teams, like those in each of our Academies, express the value of each member and speak praises for those they serve. That is the TPHS way. 
As we enter into a new challenge:  The STAAR test has changed the dynamics of how schools operate. Recent statistics show that 40% of Texas students failed aspects of the test. Many teachers and student bodies are demoralized by the testing requirements. Many students feel that the STAAR test itself stands between their dreams for success. 
We, however, have the power to influence and to change things. With incredible budget cuts state-wide, teachers and schools are asked to still work miracles. We can do that. With greater rigor in the testing requirements students are asked to put out all they can. We can do that and we will. With failures and demoralization around us many around us feel that they cannot overcome the challenges. We are pumped up and we will face the challenges and soar with flying colors. Why?  Because We have in this organization a staff in apple-pie order. Ace-high. Top gun. Best in the west. Let’s know it. Let’s act like it. If it is to be, it is up to me. This is where I ask you to take a stand. But to take a stand only if you believe in yourself, in our students, in our program and in our individual schools. 

If it is to be, it is up to me.
We have the power to influence and to change things.
The way out here is “Success Only. Only Success.” Failure is not one of the doors we can open. Students will not only rise to the level we have set for them but they will exceed those expectations. We will help to instill in our students to expect only the best of themselves because we have made our expectations and vision clear. We live and walk the talk. 
We believe in “we” and not just “me.” The “we” way is the TPHS way.
So I ask, Are you up to the challenge?
Are we going to raise the bar and have our students exceed all standards?
Do you truly believe that failure is not an option?
I ask that you individually pledge your commitment. Because today we will set in to action our plan of success, for us, and for our students. 

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