Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Meeting The Needs of the Student

A friend of mine recently enrolled his 4th grader in his local public school (all identifying characteristics, including names and locations, are intentionally being left out).  The boy had been home-schooled for the last year while participating in a travel adventure that most of us could only dream of having--but my friend and his wife decided "Dustin" needed to socialize more with kids his own age.  They've stopped traveling for a year and enrolled Dustin in school, where he's excelling.

They recently had their first parent conference.  The only "negative" was that "Dustin" always wants to be first.  I had the same response as my friend did, "So?"  But back to the story.

My friend is a certifiable genius, and through his and his wife's tutelage "Dustin" has become quite advanced in math (for a 4th grader).  Their concern is that "Dustin" will not learn anything in math this year!  I told him to ask the teacher what options existed for "Dustin"--could she at least have him go to a different class (say, a 5th grade class?) for math so that he can continue to progress?

Her answer was that she could not.

Huh?  Are you freakin' kidding me?  What kind of school is that?

I'm not suggesting the teacher should prepare separate lessons just for "Dustin" (although I've seen that requested before!); but is it so much to ask that he be taught at his own level?  It's not like he needs to be in 5th grade, but he probably needs to be in 5th grade math.  How could that be impossible???

My friends will continue to work with "Dustin" so that his math improves.  What will happen in 5th grade?  Will the school refuse to put him in 6th grade math?

We in education don't do ourselves any favors when we do absolutely stupid things like this.


allen (in Michigan) said...

"We in education don't do ourselves any favors when we do absolutely stupid things like this."

Built into the system Darren.

You could have warned your friend and his wife that to get at that vaunted socialization they'd have to largely give up decision-making power over the education of their son deferring to strangers of varying degrees of skill, concern and basic humanity over whom they'd have little to no influence.

How do you think they would have received that bit of information?

Polski3 said...

We had the same issues in elem. school for our youngest son - he was reading at 5-6 grade level in 3rd grade and his teacher could not meet his needs; not her fault. She was told that she had to be on page 332 at 945 am on Oct. 23....canned reading program (OPen Court) adopted by many, many districts who were "failing" under NCLB and, at least down here, have a high second language population. Talking to the school board was fruitless. Result- he was the #1 student in AccReader points. He was always ahead - aced the grade 4 STAR test math portion....anyhow, we later skipped a grade (8th) and he has thrived with the challenge of honors classes, AP classes and mock trial in high school. Too many schools will not accomodate the brighter, advanced students...which is a crime.

Darren said...

Allen, they'd have believed me--but I held out hope that some idealistic young teacher would try to break through the system and "make a difference". As we used to say in the army, though, "hope is not a battle plan."

allen (in Michigan) said...

So in the same paragraph you quote "hope isn't a battle plan" you admit to offering nothing more then hope to your friends.

Sigh. There really is a tide in the affairs of men.

Twenty-five years ago gun owners were widely regarded as knuckle-dragging troglodytes who might, at the slightest provocation, explode into deadly violence. Now the ownership of firearms is rapidly coming to be seen as a proper right of the citizenry and firearms are starting to show up quite unselfconsciously on broadcast television in contexts consonant with that view.

I guess that sort of sea-change hasn't quite arrived with regard to public education though.

KauaiMark said...

I've been working as a "roving sub" this last week for teacher pullouts for "individual reading assessments"

After talking with teachers in the lunch room, it seems that "reading assessment" is equated "speed" not necessarily comprehension.

The measurement is based on stopwatch times and not follow up questions on what they read.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to believe that homeschooling parents who placed a child in a regular school (public or private) for socialization reasons were well aware that something like this might happen.

I'm mulling over something like this myself for my kid when he gets to high school. My expectation is that he will learn less in high school than he will at home plus in the local community colleges plus with distance learning. But ... he probably increases his chances of getting into the University of California system if he goes to the local high school (which is pretty good).

So ... go for more learning, or increase his chances of getting into our good state university system?

The good news is that I have a few years to decide.

-Mark Roulo

Happy Elf Mom said...

Hi, Darren. This is why we are homeschooling. My 5th grader is in high school Geometry, has finished Algebra I and the school would put him in fifth grade, no different instruction at all.

So I'm figuring any "gaps" he experiences b/c I am trying to teach him myself are more than made up for by the fact that he won't be bored stiff for the next ohhhh five years...

Ellen K said...

If this school is like many, they are mainstreaming so many challenged and challenging students that the teachers are doing the best they can. Having to produce separate lesson plans for every IEP is exhausting and while I sympathize with your friend, this is the new normal. But I also have suggestions-in some districts, students who identified as gifted can have IEP's written to insure specific time and lesson allotments commensurate with their skills. I would suggest your friend use this as leverage to get the kind of education his son needs. Before too much longer, all the kids will have IEP's and at that point, unless many more teachers are hired, teaching anything will become impossible.

Anonymous said...

On the website, one parent in a similar situation was able to convince the teacher to let his child do the homework for his parent-taught Singapore Math during his math class. There was something similar for testing/grading, I think. Of course, the next year's teacher refused. Sigh. Let no child get ahead.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are required to prepare special lessons for spec ed kids (a significant number of whom do not belong in regular classrooms), so why should they not be expected to do the same for gifted kids? If differentiated instruction has any meaning beyond the fantasy world, such accommodation should be automatic. Of course, it isn't and I have long been aware that most schools/teachers have little or no desire to offer anything appropriate/challenging to the top kids - "because they'll do fine, anyway." That sentiment predates NCLB by at least 50 years and has only been worsened by it and the associated pressure to decrease the achievement gap. No wonder homeschooling has become so much more popular.

Kody S. (Denver) said...

I have had just the opposite experience. In my home school district, from elementary to high school, there are acclerated programs for children. Those who excel in math, reading, or what ever the subject may be are placed in more advanced classes.

It astonishes me that schools are allowing their students learning to be stunted.

Anonymous said...

His parents need to buy access to ALEKS.

I have used this software with my students-- hundreds of them-- for the past seven years, and I now use it with my own son, a fifth grader who is doing pre-algebra with ALEKS.

ALEKS has been around since the mid-1990s, and it has become pretty polished during that time. In a nutshell, it uses artificial intelligence software to personalize mathematics curriculum for students. Tell your friend to check it out.

PeggyU said...

Darren - I know I have mentioned this before: I tutored a student who was in a similar situation. It took a lot of persuasion (and we had ongoing conflicts with the school), but they eventually relented and let him use his regular math period to take an online classs through Stanford's EPGY (Extension Program for Gifted Youth)offerings.

I'm pleased to say that at 19 he has completed his bachelor's degree and is now working on his master's.