Your kid’s flunking…Have a nice summer!


The above pie chart sums up how I feel this morning about the employees of our local public school system. I use the term “employees” deliberately rather than educators or teachers as this is seemingly what people who in the past sacrificed  jobs with a higher income potential for the calling of teaching our children have become. Clock punching union clerks with our kids serving the role of stock on the shelves.

Yesterday morning I received an email from my 6th grade sons math teacher stating that he was in danger of a failing grade in his honors math class. I received this email with two days remaining in the school year. Lest you think I am one of those parents who pay little regard to to their child’s progress during the year, I have been in regular contact with the teacher during the year and follow my sons progress via the Family Access website in which the teachers post their students marks on individual projects and assignments on a weekly basis. Up until two days ago I had been reassured by his teacher that while he was struggling a bit to catch up with the other students since his transfer from the basic math course to the honors program in the middle of the last semester, he was a smart boy and would do fine. I was a little concerned with this teachers failure to regularly post his marks to said Family Access site so I could keep close track but accepted her tepid reassurances at face value. After receiving the above mentioned email I did a bit of investigating and discovered that this teacher had been absent from class for about half the quarter for various conferences and workshops (relating to self esteem and diversity no doubt)  with a substitute teacher unfamiliar with the circumstances of my son joining the program mid-stream, or in the use of the Family Access site, taking her place. Not only has my sons confidence in his mathematical ability taken a hit but I’m feeling like a bit of a dupe this morning. When asked for advice on how we should proceed, she suggested to me that perhaps he should be placed back into the regular math program next year.  WTF!! Keep in mind that this is not an average student I am speaking of but one who has excelled in his studies in the past and was described by this very teacher upon her recommendation of him to the honors program as her “star math pupil”. I have sent an email to this teacher, cc’d to the principal, asking for a detailed explanation as to why this should not be considered a rather spectacular failure on the part of a math program who’s purpose is ostensibly to impart the knowledge of mathematics rather than to cover the ass of members of the teachers union upon failure in that task .

I can hardly wait for their response.


21 responses to “Your kid’s flunking…Have a nice summer!

  1. Of all of the worries that I am cultivating concerning my daughter (and any future children) growing up, dealing with school is at the top of the list. It must be absolutely nerve-wracking.

  2. Most of my experience with the public schools has been positve as long as you stay on top of them. What hacks me off is that most of the parents I talk to whose kids are doing well in school tell me that they, the parents, correct their kids homework before the kids turn it in. And the teachers encourage this! I guess I’m old fashion as it seems to defeat the whole purpose unless all you care about is grades rather than actually learning something.
    When I lived in Seattle we sent the kids to Catholic school (Assumption/St Bridget) even though we aren’t particularly religious due to the disipline they instilled and the rigorous academics. Right from the beginning in 1st grade the kids had a couple hours homework assigned each night where in the public schools it is quite a bit less.

  3. The teacher was absent from the class for half the quarter? Amazing. They need to attend this training in the summer time, or take a leave of absence to do so. Our school district had a slew of half days and short weeks this year. Half days for the WASL, short weeks for teacher planning. Seems like they didn’t spend much time in school. It seems that some school districts are allowing themselves to become job programs, as opposed to educating our children.

    Andy, Mark is right. Most schools aren’t bad, but you have to stay on top of things, otherwise you find out there is a problem when it’s nearly too late to fix it. My experience is that the worst teachers tend to be the older ones, who have allowed themselves to become tired and bitter, whatever the reasons. They cease caring, but don’t leave.

  4. I have long assumed that any progeny of mine will have to have their schooling supplemented at home if I want my kid to be able to think for themselves and apply logic and problem solving.

    That the teacher was absent 1/4 of the semester and only told you about the problem 2 days before the end of term is unreal.

  5. Hard to imagine a teacher missing half a quarter attending conferences on ‘diversity’ & ‘self-esteem’ but I suppose anything’s possible. The school’s explanation should be interesting.

    Having had a number of family members and close friends involved in teaching, counseling and social work in various public school districts around the country I found your pie chart a bit of an exaggeration. These are smart dedicated people who work very hard in often difficult situations I think I’ll run it past some of them & see how they view the parents of their students.

    That would be interesting.

  6. Most of them I believe are hard working dedicated professionals Arthur who are probably as frustrated as the parents at the constraints they must work under as members of the teachers union. I was a Teamster for a number of years and I found many of the rules we had to work under rediculous. I was feeling particularly annoyed this morning, hence the addmittedly exagerated chart.
    Nicole has a good point however regarding supplemental work. As having experience with both private and public schools, I found that the homework load was of substantially lower quantity and quality as that of the private school.

  7. Hey Mark, apologies for my absence, (God, I owe those all over the place), life’s been busy since school let out.

    I don’t write much about school since many of the hyper-involved parents are reading my blog (including the principal and Bwana librarian- fuck me sideways with a spork, who invited these people to my party?) and they would be highly offended by my opinions of their Blue Ribbon educational system.

    Honors or AG courses at the primary and middle school levels are a joke. They don’t actually teach the kids at a higher intellectual level, they just pile on additional, slightly elevated course loads by the bucketful wielded by adequate, run of the mill teachers who have their curricula and classroom standards dictated by the district. The AG courses in most schools are kept deliberately small to enhance their stature and throw off the reality that most kids can actually perform just fine at a more demanding level than the dumbed down curriculum offered in most classrooms at public schools.

    The well meaning teachers aren’t usually the problem (I know bad apples exist), the principals, district management, union dictats and state/federal mandates are to blame. My cousin teaches fifth grade AG classes, two of her inner city Hurricane Katrina transfer students failed the Taks/ No Child Left Behind tests two years ago in her Blue Ribbon school and she nearly got fired. She’s been on probation ever since and she’s a damn fine, twenty year long, teacher.

    I would suggest private school if it’s in the budget, the public schools, even the good ones, are a complete mess.

  8. Unfortunatley Daphne, the only decent private school in our rural area costs 10K per year per sudent. There is a Christian school with a good academic record but they are a little too strident for my tastes, requring the parents to profess a belief in JC as personal savior blah, blah, blah. Ain’t goin there. I’ll just keep battling the public schools for now.

  9. I’ve got the same dilemma in my neighborhood. My property taxes are bucking 10K a year, so affordable private schools that aren’t screaming Jesus are beyond my financial threshold.

    I end up as frustrated as you with the system we’re given.

  10. I wouldn’t have a problem with the God botherers if instead of screaming Jesus they just lightened up a bit and pushed their beliefs through example rather than beating you over the head with it. We had both kids in Catholic school when we lived in Seattle and it was great. High academic standards, strict disipline, and they didn’t bug you if you were less than strictly observant regarding church and the like. You paid your money and the kids got a great education. I miss the place.

  11. Well, the catholics are a different species from the protestant Jesus freaks. My kids would be enrolled in the nearest catholic school if it wasn’t a forty five minute drive one way. I survived the nuns and think it held me in good stead through my troubles.

    To be honest, I’m not fond of charismatic protestants. I think they’re assholes.

  12. You’re a Cathilic school girl? Should have known.
    I attended for just two years in California. The Irish nun who taught my 3rd grade class wielded a ruler like a samurai sword. She had a heavy brough and when mad you couldn’t understand a word she said which made her even madder. I still have marks from that stick.

  13. Catholic straight from birth through elementary school, I’m CCC all the way.

    I don’t practice anymore, majorly lapsed, but God and I are on good terms – we like each other most days and he’s not very concerned with church. He just wants people to behave kindly towards one another, dogma bores him.

  14. Shit, I know that sounded really weird.

    It’s still true.

  15. I fell off the religion wagon a long time ago. I figure God’s like Santa. He knows who’s been naughty and nice.

  16. I can dig that description, Mark. I like it a lot, as a matter of fact.

  17. So why did the teacher miss so much time?

  18. My wife, the school teacher, is getting on plane to come kick your ass for bad mouthing the profession she is coming to loath. Wait…


  19. Is that you cuz?
    I feel for most of the teachers out there who have a genuine passion for educating and are forced to spend most of their time battling administrators or their own union. The kids seem a lower and lower priority.

  20. How did you know it was me?

    It really is a shame. Lara loves the kids but she makes less than 1/3 what she made in the private sector and puts in longer hours. She also has to take 4 classes a semester to keep her credentials current. She has a master’s degree and an undergrad from Berkeley. Not like she is undereducated and yet she spends 2 nights a week staying up til midnight studying.

    The biggest problem down here is No Child Left Behind. All the schools focus on is passing the tests. Most of the kids here are ESL (80%)so they don’t bother to teach them any english that isn’t needed for the tests.

    Looks like this is going to be her last year teaching. Just another hard working, dedicated teacher leaving the profession due to the mismanagement of the entire system.

    By the way, the schools down here had short days every Wednesday for teaching seminars and are closed 2 days a month for retreats. Wish they would use that money to pay the teachers so they felt inclined to do a better job.

    Oh, and our kids will be attending private school next year.

  21. I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and engaging, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I stumbled
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