Monday, November 16, 2009

Which Way Do I Go?

In September we were feeling lucky that Eve was about to join our neighborhood public school. The bus stop was at the end of the block. Other neighborhood kids would be joining her at the school. We just happen to live in what is billed as "the best school district in the state." For our first foray into the world of public (read: free as opposed to the tuition we'd been paying for the last few years) school and we were optimistic.

Two months in: Eve has lost her trademark self-confidence. She went in knowing she was bulletproof. A couple of weeks ago she started sleeping in and begging me to let her stay home. She's not being teased or tortured. She has made a ton of friends and has gotten a school "pride award" nearly every week for turning her homework in on time and being a good citizen by helping younger students, volunteering to clean the cafeteria after lunch, and helping in her classroom.

Her teacher spends her day passing out worksheets and doing email. The children correct each other's papers and muddle through their math problems without a textbook that offers examples. Bubba and I have actually had to use a popular search engine to look up some of the terms on her worksheets so that we can help her understand what she's supposed to do.

When Eve approaches her teacher's desk to ask for clarification she is told, "Re-read the instructions." If she resorts to asking a classmate for help, she gets busted for talking in class and a note is sent home.

Last Thursday I sent the teacher an email asking a question about a field trip I offered to chaperone. I sent it at 10:15am. On a school day. By 10:30am (that's fifteen minutes later) I had a response. Why is she doing email when she's supposed to be teaching my kid? Why does a teacher need a PC on her desk in her classroom?

Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I arranged several coffee dates with parents of kids in Eve's classroom. Each of these parents not only have children who are classmates of Eve's, but they also have either younger or older kids who also attend this school. So I asked: Is this year a particularly difficult one to teach? Is this teacher an anomaly? Do other parents struggle with the curriculum (particularly the math curriculum)?

To a parent, their responses were astonishing. This teacher has a particular reputation for being 'disengaged' from her students and their families, but as for any teachers who go the extra mile, there are perhaps two in the entire school, K-6. Apparently the vast majority of parents in our school district HATE the math curriculum and several of them have attended school board meetings in an effort to change it. [Lest you think we have no credibility, our area contains some of the finest engineering minds around. I personally was a calculus tutor in college. If I don't understand elementary math, there's something wrong.] For five years running, the district has defended its choices.

The vast majority of parents in our school district are also resorting to Kumon. The after school tutoring program, Kumon. They confided in me that the local public school is basically their version of day care for their kids and they spend their evenings either tutoring their children themselves or paying someone else to do it.

In the "best school district in the state."

Color me done.

If I'm not here for a while, it's because my writing is all directed toward getting Eve in to a private school where the teachers are held accountable to the children and families they are teaching and the mission has to do with actually teaching children to love learning instead of ensuring they will pass some standardized test tied to their budget.


Deb Shucka said...

I wish I knew what the answer was here. As a classroom teacher, this breaks my heart. I do know that parents hold the most power in the system. If you could organize and get really really loud, change is possible.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Don't get me started.

I'm behind you all the way. Go, go, GO! said...


Allison said...

Is that hated math curriculum called "Investigations," by any chance?

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