I heard about it first from another high school teacher. “Hey! Have you heard about the letter J.A. sent to the Cathey parents?”

Dr. J.A. Gonzalez is the principal at Cathey Middle School in McAllen. I know him well because he was an assistant principal at McHi before being selected as the principal at the I&G (Instruction and Guidance Center) and then at Cathey.

I hadn’t heard about “the letter,” so I asked my co-worker to explain. She saw it because another co-worker is a Cathey parent.

“The letter tells parents we need their help,” she explained. “You should see it. It’s awesome.” I asked her to see if she could get me a copy. And she did.

I began reading . . .

Dear Parents,

Dr. Rodney D. Cathey Middle School prides itself on student success and achievement. In order for students to achieve success, they must be participating in the classroom and following through with class assignments and homework. Parents, we are in need of your help. School-wide, many students have not been completing or turning in homework and class assignments. This lack of dedication to homework and/or class assignments has led to high failure rates in all grade levels. Please help us help your child succeed by developing a homework game plan in your household. At Dr. Rodney D. Cathey Middle School, failure is not an option.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. At last! Someone is acknowledging that parents and students have accountability, too. No good teacher can deny the role we play in a child’s success; however, we cannot do it alone. I read on…

. . . Homework is an essential part of preparing students to become life-long learners. Students who are not completing homework and class assignments will fall behind and will not be prepared to move on to the next grade level. At Dr. Rodney D. Cathey Middle School, IB students are expected to use Approaches to Learning, which include getting organized and developing good study habits, as a tool for academic success.

. . . It is imperative that students complete all assignments for continued success now and in the future.

Parents, Dr. Rodney D. Cathey Middle School needs your help making our system the best that it can be. Your assistance with our homework/class work crisis would be greatly appreciated.

Note: If your child is taking care of business in the classroom, on homework assignments, projects, tests, and performing at their full potential with regard to academics and behavior, keep up the great work as a family.

Wow! He called it a crisis. Good for him for speaking the truth. It is a crisis. The past two years, I have had an incredible number of failures. The number one reason, honestly, the only reason, is that so many students fail to 1) keep a planner so they can keep up with all assignments and tests; 2) study daily (If a child tells a parent he/she has no homework, ask questions. Middle school and high school students should have some kind of homework/studying every night); 3) complete assignments. I cannot believe the number of students today who believe it is completely acceptable to turn in incomplete work. This is not “rigor.” This will not make our students “college ready.”

Giving re-tests and allowing students to make up major projects is not the answer. Neither is ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. We must face the issue before we can fix it.

I sent an email to J.A. applauding his letter. I know he expects high standards from his teachers. It’s refreshing, to say the least, that he holds his students and their parents to those same standards.

J.A. responded to my email:

Thank you. We’re pushing hard to condition our students to work hard and to be self-disciplined. The purpose of my letter was to make parents completely aware of our crisis with regard to homework and high failure rates.

I learned a lot about the high school challenge in my time at McHi and the I&G. I understand the dilemma that high schools are facing and feel responsible for sending them a good product.

I wish this letter would go out to all parents. Then all students need to be addressed.

Chris Ardis is in her 27th year of teaching, 26 of those with McAllen ISD. Visit her web site at www.chrisardis.com to read articles on education, health, mental health, finances and beauty and a monthly column by McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez.