As you know when we moved, we were told we were in a better public school district. Having had our oldest in private school since preschool, we thought we would give our local public school a try. We had heard great things about it and rightfully so. The Principal is outstanding and so are the teachers and staff. I joined the PTA and dove in. Our daughter loved her school. Her teacher was vibrant and you could tell she was deeply passionate about her students and learning. Then, budget cuts came....
A month into school we were given a note that said our children would be moved to another classroom. Their teacher would be moved to teach K. What had actually occurred was a shortfall in attendance and the required budget cut as a result. So a month in to our blissful first grade year, the newest teacher was let go, my daughter's first grade teacher took over her K class, my daughter was moved to a second grade teacher's class, and the second grade class was dispersed to other 2nd grade rooms.
It was an adjustment filled with disappointment, but we adjusted. It certainly wasn't optimal but I did know the Principal was doing the best she could with what she had. I did not fault her, I faulted the state for essentially forcing a multi classroom move a month into school.
Our new first grade teacher was much different but just as kind. My daughter adjusted and continued to enjoy school. Then we got the mail in October. It was a first warning for possible non matriculation.
I will never be the parent who thinks her child is flawless or capable of no wrong or Mensa bound. I will however recognize insanity when I see it. Our daughter was and is a curious, happy, avid reader. Her father and I are educated and encourage her love of learning all things as much as possible. We filled out the paperwork to request a non matriculation warning conference.
Our daughter received continuously great 'comments' in her weekly folder and when I spoke with her teacher she was always doing great. She was also making good grades. This paperwork was slightly bewildering.
At the conference I was told that in August our daughter was given a FAIR test which was explained to me as the first grade equivalent to the FCAT. She did not pass the FAIR test and I was told her reading was under par.
My daughter's reading abilities might be 'under par' but without a television at her disposal she came home and happily read everyday along with her other activities. She was a voracious reader often reading before school and in the car. It was unfortunate she could not pass this test.
I was told that she would be given several more FAIR exams and if she couldn't pass she would need to attend summer school. After summer school she would be given an SAT10. If she couldn't pass this exam she would be held back. They seemed hesitant as to her probability of passing any of these tests. So I inquired in disbelief that despite her having glowing report cards and social progress they could still fail her and hold her back because of a test? The teacher apologized and told me her hands were tied. And yes, they would still hold a child back despite good report cards if she or anyone didnt pass the FAIR or SAT10. I sat in disbelief that our educational system had come to this. I thought about her attending summer school and how that would affect her. I also thought about how heartbroken she would be to not go on to second grade with her friends. I was annoyed that a bright and curious child would be held back because of an exam. I asked if the non matriculation was a real possibility and was told yes. I really was stumped in disbelief that they would hold a child back passing on all accounts except for a standardized test. She was in first grade not high school. The school said all of this was really out of their hands and this was the protocol they had to follow. I was stunned that this is how we go about educating our youth in the public school system. I was also stunned that in our non matriculation warning paperwork they predicted she would not pass her next FAIR exam.
I was saddened that in this sweet and tender age where children are curious and excited about school that this is the method we choose to educate them. I also knew our daughter would be confused if she had to spend her summer at school and was held back despite knowing her report cards were always great.
Though the school is full of warm and caring professionals, the state system that hovers over our schools is not.
Over Christmas break we moved her to a nearby private school. They gave her admissions testing- to determine her learning style- and placed her in the appropriate classroom. She started there when school resumed in January and is flourishing. She is also reading. A lot.
What a sad state of affairs that we have taken the true love of learning and replaced it with an obsession with testing. It's not the school's fault. We were at a great school.
In this process I thought of all of the bright young kids whose desire to just simply be curious of the world around them is stumped by the state's desire to have them pass standardized tests. I also thought of those without the financial means to switch to private school when they would like to.
My daughter got in the car one day and exclaimed they had so many resource classes at her new school.
What if we took all the millions spent on these FAIRs, SAT10s and FCATs and put them back into our schools?
What if we actually let teachers teach and children learn?
It's sadly not rocket science, but we continue to fail our children despite this common sense.