Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Education Rant

I was looking to be inspired to write something of more substance, and I went trolling around the Los Angeles Times website and found this article by a teacher who wants to continue to play the blame game with our children's education.

The author claims:
Students and their families make choices. Students choose to attend school or not, often manipulating their parents into letting them stay home or excusing the absences that accumulate from ditching. Other students and their families decide that although an education is valued for all you can do with it, there are other activities and people deserving more time and attention. Yes, the responsibility of educating should rest on the shoulders of teachers, but as teachers, we cannot change the choices of students and their families.

What's truly ironic is another article I found on the same website, an interview with an author who spent a year at Locke High School (one of LA's most notorious failing schools), this observer found:

The school really hasn't made an effort to reach out to them. It didn't happen. I found this really interesting: Whenever some of the teachers had real problems and called a parent, inevitably the parent would say this was the first time they'd ever heard from a teacher and things would turn around. . . . What I saw is that if you really reach out to them, of course they want their kids to achieve.

Thank you, Donna Foote! Thank you for acknowledging that parents really do want their children to succeed. Shocking revelation there, but unfortunately, there has been so much attention paid to the lip service that "it's the parents" that people like Applebee (the first author quoted) can get away with saying it yet again.

Most of you know that I spent most of May and June embroiled in a battle with the powers that be at KIPP LA Prep, what had been an amazing school all year long, when they decided to let our Principal and two-thirds of our teachers go at the end of the year. (Most resigned, some were not asked back by the new Principal.)

In my battle, I met with Board members, I met with the new Principal, I talked to teachers (that is, the ones who had resigned and weren't fearing for their jobs) I spoke for hours with fellow parents, I talked to people that I trust and respect, one of them being a former Board of Education member (not in Los Angeles). That conversation was the most enlightening. He told me I basically need to let the new Principal royally screw up before anything would be done.

So when the news came down that I had to move, I had a decision to make. I decided that I was not going to let my daughter be the guinea pig. I would move to a District that has been proven to be at least competent, rather than roll the dice with this virtually brand new school.

And Sylvia was not sad. After she learned about our Principal and almost all her teachers were leaving, she was almost as worried as I was. Today, she was thrilled to pick her elective, and can't wait for orientation on Friday.

And I have one more email to write that is still being formed in my head for those Board members I met with back then (and, btw, never responded to my 1,240-word email - other than a "we'll get back to you" email). I was an involved parent. I went to field trips, I went to every Saturday Breakfast with the Principal. I made sure Sylvia did her homework every night. I got her to school every day on time. I went to Back to School Night and Open House. I emailed and called Sylvia's teachers and her Principal as I needed. And for most of the year (as Kori can attest), I took every opportunity to brag about KIPP. I spoke at a fundraiser, I wrote articles and a few letters to the LA Times, I blogged about it, I spoke to friends and colleagues about KIPP, I was thrilled to be a part of the education system that was actually working (and in LAUSD, no less).

You cannot take away that much of the Faculty without concerning parents. And when parents raise their concern, you can't just pat them on the head and say all will be well. I wonder how long it will take this particular new Principal to blame the parents as well?

The first day of KIPP's summer school was today. I heard 40 students showed up at the wrong location. (I don't think I even mentioned here that the actual school was moving, too, and the new building is not ready yet.) I heard that "some" students would have transportation available. Before I'd notified the school that we were leaving, I never got my letter telling me about a meeting and the summer school location. I heard parents were not getting their calls returned.

I enrolled Sylvia today in about 5 minutes. I went to the Burbank school district office to enroll Riley a couple of weeks ago, and after my paperwork was filled out, I waited for the woman to finish with another parent for about five minutes. She then apologized to me for the wait. So far, so good.

(Oh, and pssst....another Blog Blast for Education is in the works. I want to get one more in before the election, so as you enter the new school year, keep that in mind!)


Anonymous said...

That first comment burns me up, and reminds me of how we were treated at Son's old daycare/preschool. No one told me about Son's biting problem until it was too late, and he was being kicked out!

It's the same mentality. That daycare fancied it a school--
even had the name "school" in it's name, and I was already being treated like poo. They were covering up the issue, then blaming me when things went wrong.

Good luck with the new school districts--I hope everything goes well!

Anonymous said...

I get so mad for you each time you talk about your spurned efforts at Sylvia's school. You went above and beyond the call and to have your concerns just ignored.... aarrrragh!

So, on the whole I do agree with you. Most parents do want to be involved. They do want their kids to succeed. However, I've also had plenty of run-ins with parents of my students who aren't concerned at all about their children's education. They only want to argue with me about grades because those marks will effect them later in life. I've been told countless times that I *have* to give so-and-so an A because a B just won't do. So-and-so is so smart and deserves an A. Well, then So-and-so can do his freaking work and earn the grade.

I know that's not quite the same thing that you're talking about... but those parents with whom I spoke weren't concerned with education. They just wanted their little darlings to have a piece of paper bragging about them, whether or not they deserved it.

Very excited about the new BB for Education. :)

Anonymous said...

The again, I've also had school administrators tell me (in veiled language, of course) that athletes had to get good grades....

So I guess my complaint is that people focus too much on grades and marks and too little on actually learning.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the new schools are so promising!

Keep us posted on the date for the next Blog Blast for Education!

Me. Here. Right now. said...

I am crossing my fingers that all the things we do in the name of our kids' education is going to pay off. I really don't want to move again.

If I hadn't had an "inside" powerbroker at the district, my experience would have been far more painful.

Kori said...

Well hell, I think that there are two distinct sets of parents: those who don't really give a rip like the ones that CableGirl talked about-because they do exist-and those of us who not only care but try really, really hard to make sure our kids get the education they need. There are also two kinds of teachers-those who are just there to get a paycheck and don't reach out to parents and tell tham what is going on, and those who are truly dedicated to teaching and all that is involved. I don't have any answers, nor will I pretend to; we are getting ready gear up here, start in two weeks, and I won't have any real sense of what the year is going to hold until later one-hopefully in time for your next BlogBlast!

janey jay said...

It makes me mad -- and sad -- that many times the educational process is a crapshoot, both from the perspective of the educators and the parents. Having an invested teacher is one of the greatest things I as am involved parent can hope for. And *knock on wood) we've been very lucky with Will. I am very blessed in this area.

Hooray for a what sounds like a great start to y'all's school year. You all deserve it ;-)

Jen said...

I'm glad things are good so far. Let's hope it continues. It's never a good thing when there's huge staff turnover. My heart broke reading your posts about the destruction of what was clearly an excellent school.

Jen said...

Oh, and btw... as a teacher, there's some of both of those articles in what I've experienced.

I try to call EVERY parent to check in by late Sept. or so. I start EVERY phone call with a positive about the student.

Even given that, there are some parents who don't care, who don't see education as a priority, who have issues that are so enormous that reaching out short of termination of parental rights are not going to change certain patterns at home.

This is not, however, endemic to a particular income group or race or nationality. This type of bad parenting cuts across all lines.

As does good parenting.

But when you live in a neighborhood or area where "authority" beats up on you and yours every, single day, yes YOU, the authority MUST reach out and show that you aren't there for that purpose. That you care about every single child who is entrusted in your care.

That is the privilege of being a teacher.

Bah... OFF the soapbox now.

Natalie said...

April, you are seriously one awesome mother and those teachers who want to blame it on the parents are part of the problem. Oh sure, I'd agree that in SOME instances it is the parent's fault, but most of us want the very best for our children. Schools need to start thinking outside of the box. Only then will we see our country rival many others in education.

(PS, this is Nat, I'm playing around with my name)

Shiona said...

Man I'm sorry you had to go through that but it seems like things have changed for the better here. Good luck on fighting the good fight!

Anonymous said...

I think you know what a conscientious parent I am, so I was TOTALLY thrown for a loop midyear during Hannah's 3rd grade when her teacher told me she was performing so poorly in math that she had to have "special help." Considering how much time and effort I had spent with Hannah each evening doing extra work pages and flash cards, and given that she always got her answers correct, I didn't know what to think of it. Turns out it was more of a self-esteem issue for Hannah and she was convinced the teacher hated her, so she could never perform "fast enough." When I asked the teacher if she could provide me with a weekly update on Hannah's math progress via email, she flat-out told me, "No. If I have to do it for Hannah, then I have to do it for everyone." I was so stunned, I didn't know what to say. When I did manage to recover, both she and the principal heard my concerns and opinions. I have a feeling A LOT of people complained about the teacher - she's transferring schools this year. Good riddance. She waited almost ALL year to let me know there was a real problem after leading me to believe everything was fine.

I hope this year goes better for you and your girls.