School & District Management

Eighth Grader Looks Ahead to High School and Beyond

By Catherine Gewertz — May 21, 2013 3 min read
Mikel Robinson works on a packet in English class. He is one of millions of students nationwide trying to master new standards.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Mikel Robinson
Age 14 | Stuart-Hobson Middle School
8th grade student

Mikel Robinson has a dream for the future, and he’s also got a backup plan.

He’d love to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, and become a pro basketball player, but Mikel knows that only a few manage that. So he’s set his sights on a high school that has both a good engineering program and a good basketball team.

“I want to be something in life,” he says, “a basketball player. Or I’ve got a backup plan as a engineer.”

Coaches from several high schools came to watch him play and pressed Mikel to join their teams. But he applied to only one of those schools: Roosevelt High, a traditional comprehensive high school in the District of Columbia, and got in. District 8th graders who opt not to attend their feeder high schools—Eastern High, in Mikel’s case—can choose from a range of high schools with lottery- or application-based enrollments.

His mother, a hospital aide who graduated from Eastern, wanted something better for her son; he says she insisted he try for one of the lottery or application schools. Mikel was accepted, also, to the school district’s Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High, which offers strong career-technical education alongside its academics.

In Dowan McNair-Lee’s class at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Mikel tends to be quiet. He takes notes and fills in his worksheets, sometimes doodling if his concentration wanes. Only rarely does he raise his hand to chime in to class discussions.

Mikel has his share of academic struggles; last year, as a 7th grader, his reading level was low enough that he participated in the Read 180 program, which his school uses for students who are two to five grade levels behind. He spent double periods daily in that program and was also pulled out of his electives periodically for reading support.

By the end of 7th grade, Mikel’s reading had improved enough that he left Read 180. But as an 8th grader, though he says English is “easy,” Mikel has earned D’s every quarter so far in that class. His scores on interim assessments have improved dramatically during the year, but he is still answering only about half the questions correctly. He fails to turn in more than a few classroom assignments.

Mikel doesn’t mind annotating text passages; he kind of likes underlining key details and ideas, and he says it helps him remember the important things he reads. But he hates writing assignments, especially the portions of tests that ask him to write paragraphs instead of choose from several supplied answers.

“Yeah, those are the hardest,” he says.

Ms. McNair-Lee is all too aware of what his aversion to writing has done to his grades; she notices that many of the assignments he doesn’t turn in are writing assignments. And she senses that his academics don’t get much support at home.

Even as he walks a delicate line academically, Mikel shines in the hallways and outside Stuart-Hobson’s doors. He jostles and jokes with friends at passing periods and has good records for attendance and behavior at school.

In the spring sunshine, he comes alive on the baseball field, where as the team’s catcher, he isn’t afraid to show off his athletic gifts. His quick mind, winning personality, and athleticism also show during football season, when he’s a running back, and during his favorite time of year—basketball season—when he leads his team as point guard.

Mikel is happy to own the connotations those positions carry: “It means I’m smart, and I make good decisions,” he says.

As he hovers on the brink of high school, Mikel often draws inspiration from Kevin Durant. “He grew up in D.C., too, and he came up through a rough neighborhood,” Mikel says. “His mom pushed him the way my mom pushes me, to do what’s right on and off the court.”

The second-best moment of his life so far, Mikel says, is when he got to meet the player at a recent basketball camp. What was the best moment? “That was being born,” he says.

Coverage of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the common assessments is supported in part by a grant from the GE Foundation, at Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2013 edition of Education Week as Mikel Robinson


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 5 Things to Know About How the Culture Wars Are Disrupting Schools
Disruptions were more acutely felt in districts with more affluent and white students, but there weren't always clear-cut political lines.
6 min read
Illustration of neutral warning symbols, with two standing out in the colors red and blue.
filo/DigitalVision Vectors + EdWeek
School & District Management Divisive Politics Are Harming Schools, District Leaders Say
A new survey reveals how tough the politics are for some leaders, especially in the suburbs.
8 min read
Illustration of tug of war.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week, SvetaZi, and iStock/Getty
School & District Management Leading a City School District Is Tough. A New Program Aims to Ease the Way
Its creators hope to drive down big-city superintendent turnover by preparing candidates for the stresses of leadership.
3 min read
Woman standing on a paper boat with a tsunami wave approaching.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management 5 Tips for Switching From Snow Days to Remote Classes
Two district leaders say communication, flexibility, and adaptability are key to success.
4 min read
Close up of hands holding a smartphone and working at a laptop near a window showing a snowy day