Thursday, February 9, 2012

public school rant


At what point do you intervene at your child’s school? How involved should we be?

I never hesitated to confront my daughter’s teachers throughout grade school whenever an issue came up. By middle school, kids were encouraged to advocate for themselves and I had to stop myself from jumping in every time my daughter received a grade I didn’t agree with or an unreasonable amount of homework. Now that she’s in high school, I am even less involved. I do check in with her on a regular basis regarding homework, and ask lots of questions (hoping to hit on the right ones that make her realize there’s something she needed to do), but I no longer go through her notebook every night to make sure her work is complete. I feel like I’ve laid the groundwork for her success, and now I need to take a few steps back, hold my breath and bite my tongue frequently.

In the high school my daughter attends, grades for various assignments, projects and tests are all posted online, so I periodically check the long lists for each of my daughter’s classes. I dislike their practice of placing an “F” in places where assignments and tests have not yet been graded by the teacher, and a “Z” if the student didn’t turn something in. Finals were last week, so I decided to peek at the online grades. Her English teacher had an “F” for her finals test score. Next to that was 26/100, which told me it had already been graded (not to be confused with placing an “F” meaning it had not yet been graded). All other grades on her assignments, projects and tests were A’s and B’s. The final grade for the semester was now a “C”.

Lucky for my daughter, this little detail alarmed me, so I ask Isabel if she had received her graded English final. She had. “And did you get an F on it?” “No!” she hesitated... “But I did get a C.” At the top of the test was written 76/100. Online it had been recorded as 26/100.

I understand that everyone makes mistakes, but this is not an isolated incident. I won’t bore you with all the other details of incompetence throughout the system we’ve encountered. It does make me reconsider how involved I should be. I sent her English teacher an email immediately after noticing the error that changed my daughter’s grade from a B to a C.

Here’s the email response I received from said English teacher this morning:

I am so very sorry and glad you emailed. Her grade was entered wrong, my error, and it does impact her semester grade. I should have caught it as I know Isabel should have earned at least a B for the semester.  This is easily remedied and I will have the semester grade changed. Isabel's report card will still show the C, because the grades have already been pulled; however, her transcripts and subsequent grade reports will show the grade for English as a B. I am copying this to her counselor.

I really apologize for causing you and Isabel this stress. She is one of the sweetest students I have and I really appreciate her and the work she has been producing.

Am I satisfied with this? Yes, and no. It’s good to get positive feedback about my child, and I’m glad I was diligent and noticed the error. But I’m afraid this sort of problem is only a tiny example of so many bigger problems within our school system. If a teacher doesn’t notice a low grade on a test score from one of their students who normally receives A’s and B’s, they are not paying attention!

So the battle continues, for another few years anyway. I’ve considered other options through the years... home schooling, online schooling, return to private schooling (we did this for the first five years of school). If there’s one positive comment I can make about public school, it’s the fact that my daughter is learning how to deal with all types of people (just like in the real world).

Oh, and she’s getting really good at advocating for herself, which is something she gets to practice on a regular basis these days.

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