Greetings from the Palomar Hotel Arlington. I’m sitting here in my fabulously plush zebra print terry robe, on the bed clad in super-soft zebra print Frette sheets. My organization has its big donor weekend, (actually Thursday p.m. to this afternoon) and so I checked in to avoid having to schlep to the ‘burbs late at night and then schlep back in to town early every morning.
At the end of a reception last night (where I wore these fierce zebra pattern high heels with a chic, understated black sheath…if not here, now, when?), I had a nice chat with the wife of my boss, an older, whip-smart lawyer. They have a very, very smart and creative first grader and naturally the topic was, “So how are the kids?” I gave a general update and then she launched into hers saying, she said, “Can I say it? I hate school. I hate school.” I had found a kindred soul, lol. It only takes having your child reach school age to discover you have more in common with someone than you thought.
She’s in Arlington County and she shared how she had repeatedly been stonewalled with a smile when she asked for basic information, as in what kind of testing was happening when. After getting the runaround, she discovered that a series of rather poorly attended Superintendent coffees was being held. She went to one and got to spend 2 hours with the Super and about 8 other parents at someone’s home. She asked him why this information couldn’t be found on the website? Why could all these other jurisdictions do it in Colorado, in Wisconsin… and not theirs? He turned to a staff member and said, “Let’s do it.” Victory.
More recently, she was helping in her daughter’s classroom, turned around, and to her surprise her daughter was gone, whisked away by a staff member. At home, she probed a bit and learned that her daughter was regularly taken out for individual reading. The mom checked with a friend…that friends’ daughter also was being taken out. She followed up with the teacher to learn what was happening. “Oh yes, we regularly do this,” the teacher said.
Well, who knew? Why? What for? On what basis? As the mom said, when she takes her child to her pediatrician, she wants to be—and expects to be—informed about, say, what tests are being administered to her child. And why. Maybe this is a great thing they are doing, in which case why not let people know?
Bottom line, there needs to be better communication to parents. It shouldn’t be this hard. I’ll repeat what Jay Mathews recently wrote, namely (#4) that an occasional teacher email or phone call to parents. It would have more positive impact on home/school connections than any boatload of canned “parent seminars.”
Which relates to the direction that MPCS is going, whereby they plan to give parents less information around the second grade that-must-not-be-named (GT) screening while claiming it will be more. It also is relevant to the issue of instructional grouping at the school level, which is at the discretion of the principal. Parents almost never are told how their child is being grouped, often because that would mean referring to the abilities of the other children in the class. Parents are told their student is “placed where he/she is meant to be placed.” Really? How do I know? On what basis? That’s the line I was given by the principal when M. was in 5th grade, and I wish I had questioned it.
And then there was the math. Her child is struggling with addition–and yet she is getting great grades. Um…there seems to be a disconnect. And yes, my boss’s wife is getting the same “counting on fingers is a math strategy and we encourage kids to use multiple strategies.” Sounds familiar. So all in all we had a good whinge about NCLB, and teaching to the test, and math acceleration, and GT that isn’t GT, and all that good stuff (wry grin). Reconnected, if only briefly, to my mom self.