Thursday, April 07, 2011

She's Got A "D" In Geometry. But It's the School That's Failing Her.

SC has a "D" in geometry. And that's what I've told her she has to maintain. That she needs to fix her mind just on not flunking the course.  That and trying to pass the damn Standards of Learning test in Geometry.

You would probably recognize the name of my daughter's school if I mentioned the movie that was based on something that once happened in the school. It's the one school for our city and serves a diverse population, including a huge number of ESL students, kids who themselves are not ESL, but come from immigrant families, and African American families who live in public housing.

It's also got plenty of rich white kids whose parents drive Mercedes SUVs--kids who succeed brilliantly and go on to all the prestige colleges you can name.

But because of the ESL and project kids, because in my humble opinion (from 20+ years observing the schools in this town) the schools have done a crappy job of getting kids ready for high school, of reaching out to the neediest families, the high school was classed as "failing" by the damn federal No Child Left Behind program.

There has been much talk about this. Much hiring of high priced consultants by the school superintendent, whom I have meet and determined to be an asshole in love with the sound of his own voice.

There are pep rallies, endless pep talks and every damn memo the school gives the kids is printed with "This is important. We are not going to give up on you."

So what has happened when I've tried to reach out and get her some help?

From the "Assistant Principal For Math":

Mrs. M is a very diligent teacher who is more than willing to assist SC with any additional support that is required to help her have greater success in Geometry.

In regard to her tests, this year we have implemented common assessments. In order to protect the integrity of the test among teachers students only have access to the test in the classroom. Mrs. M is very diligent about providing class assignments, homework, and review materials that mirror the test.

From the chairman of the Math Department:
Mrs. M has helped with the development of the tests and taught Geometry for many years. Her students consistently score well on the SOL tests and in her course. I am puzzled by SC's comment that the tests don't cover what is taught in class as it seems very inconsistent with Mrs. M's teaching style.

According to SC, Mrs M spends more time dealing with kids who are disciplinary issues than she does teaching, no matter what her "style". So much so that the class is apparently behind, because when she recently had them do a mock Standards of Learning exam (the test they have to pass here in VA) the kids commented that there was a lot of stuff on it that they hadn't done yet. And the next day, Mrs M admitted that this was so.

Then there's that thing about tests. Last year, in 9th grade (and SC did well in Algebra I) I was floored to hear her teacher say "If the students don't do well on a test, I have to think that I didn't teach them well. So we have to go over the material again and then I retest them."

SC doesn't get her tests back. She doesn't see them AT ALL unless she makes an appointment to go in and go over them with her teacher. No review, no correction. How do you learn if you don't know if you've done things wrong?

SC does has severe test anxiety in math. But it has been much better in recent years. Now I think it's back. And she is failing every single test.

It was suggested by everyone that SC go to the "Math Center" for help. It is open morning, lunchtimes and after school. Since she values her lunch times with her friends and has work 2 afternoons a week, I drove her in both Monday and Tuesday early for help.

No one showed up Monday. I fired off a note to both Asst Principal and Math Center director who insisted that someone is ALWAYS there, that someone had been there that morning. Okay, SC had left to go get her computer fixed. Perhaps someone came just after she'd gotten there.

We went back Tuesday morning. Same thing. And this time SC waited as long as she could before going to class.

At this point I called her counselor. She had suggested talking to the Asst Principal and the chairman, but also said "call me if it doesn't work". And I told her what I'd been told.

She is helping SC to find a tutor--a peer, who'll actually be there to help her.

Hopefully SC can maintain the "D" with her homework and class participation. If she misses the SOL by a few points she can repeat it immediately. If she misses it by more she'll have to take it again next fall--and again in spring if she can't pass it then.

Knowing that if she passes the class she won't have to repeat it is a relief to her.
But how pathetic is that?
And how pathetic is it that I have to tell my smart, wonderful, capable girl that getting a "D" is okay?

I am at fault on this because I didn't swing into action months ago. I should have, and I've apologized to SC for letting her down.

But the school has let her down too.Here is a girl taking honors and AP classes, doing well in everything else. She draws a "D" in math 2 quarters running and a red flag doesn't go up somewhere?

Her teacher makes excuses. The other math folk make excuses. No one says "This girl should be doing well. What's wrong and how can we help?"

I can advocate for my child. I am doing so now, late as it is in the school year.

But what about those many other kids who have no parent who knows enough to advocate for them?

She may be on the edge of failing math. But the school is failing in much more than that.
And we all pay for that in the end.


Saints and Spinners said...

SC's struggles with geometry and the ineffectiveness of the school system resonate strongly with me. The lack of red flags despite the so-called NCLB measures is no differnent from when I was limping through high school, trying to get help, and generally not finding it. (The one exception was my Algebra teacher, who would spend days after school to help those of us who needed more than one day per objective.)

I'm glad you are advocating for SC. It's not something I take for granted.

fredcanfly said...

SC sounds a lot like my daughter. Red flags in schools? These days? Not likely. Education is the biggest problem our nation faces, and how much is being done about it? Your story is one that I have read time and time again across the country. It makes me sick to think that our kids can't get a good education, no matter where they are. I really have to agree with Saints and Spinners on the fact that it is good that you are advocating for SC. Many parents don't. But, at the same time, you shouldn't have to. The school should be equipped to do that for you. I could write an entire book on this subject, but I won't. Instead, I invite people interested to go here: I have a couple of posts on education there. And more to come. And thank you, Library Lady, for so clearly stating what seems to be a growing problem for so many parents.

De said...

I feel for you. I fear that our education system is bankrupt, just one of the many ways that our country is going down the tubes. (Still haven't gotten the ol' optimism back.)

I can picture my 10th grade Geometry class room. I remember struggling more with Geometry than Algebra and Calculus. Hey, just watching Tommy Silva work on This Old House can make my jaw drop - my mind is just not made for measurements and dimensions.