Word to your AYP

By Mir
August 22, 2007

This week the kids’ school is hosting a series of curriculum nights, and although some parents I’ve met have skipped it because it’s probably about the same every year, I went because we’re new to the school and also I don’t want to be marked as an uninterested parent. (There’s plenty of time for that later on in the year when they need volunteers and I’m “busy,” after all.)

My impression of this school—the school that I pestered every member of the administration whose phone number and email I could get my hands on to get the kids into—is that they are the epitome of the old expression about making lemonade out of lemons. This SHOULD be a lousy school, for a variety of reasons I’ll talk about in a bit. On paper, some would argue that it IS a lousy school, although I (obviously) disagree. One thing I can say for certain is that this school (really, this district) is making me realize how spoiled we were back up north.

You know that whole No Child Left Behind thing? Yeah, well, I didn’t. I mean, I knew it existed. I’d heard about it. Maybe I even read about it a little bit when it first happened. But here is where I’ll cop to being privileged, educated, middle-class parent who was once a student as the child of privileged, educated, middle-class parents.

Our old school? Rich town (oh, we lived on the “wrong side” of it, but the millionaires’ tax dollars still funded our schools), well-funded district, the biggest problem we faced was the ongoing battle over building a new school. (More and more kids were in classes out in trailers because the building was being outgrown, but plenty of folks in town—most of whom didn’t have kids—saw no reason to build another school.) Test scores weren’t something that I ever really thought about, there.

Our new school is in the poorest county in the state. No Child Left Behind is on everyone’s minds because right now, this school is graded as “failing.” Last night I got to hear about how last year the state-mandated testing caused over twenty third-graders to be “retained.” (No, they didn’t fail third grade. They were simply retained. Like water when you eat too much salt.)

I knew this stuff before we came, of course. I did my research. We struggled with the right course; do we move to the county with the “good” schools where everyone is relatively well-off and white, or do we stay in the county with diversity where the schools are struggling? We chose to stay here for a number of reasons, chief amongst them that, hey, I think diversity is a good thing.

But to sit there and listen to the statistics—to hear how Adequate Yearly Progress is measured and that this school struggles to meet it, well, that was a whole ‘nother ball game. To sit amongst a group of “concerned parents” and do a bit of mental math and realize that not even half the parents had showed up for this event, that the mythical “parents who don’t support their children’s educations” aren’t at all mythical and in fact live right around the corner here, that was hard.

Yesterday I was busy bitching about how MY KIDS ARE SMART AND I WANT GIFTED EDUCATION AND I’M GOING TO FIGHT FOR IT (which, by the way, drew an almost immediate response from the principal about how both kids have already been recommended for the program by their teachers and testing starts in a week or so, which just goes to show you that there is NO END to how often I can stick my foot in my mouth) and then I went to this thing and realized that I am so sheltered from the realities of most of this country that it’s embarrassing.

There was FIFTEEN MINUTES of an hour-long presentation devoted to why it’s important to have our kids read every day. One quarter of the allotted time. And they did a nice job with the presentation, but I cannot adequately explain how saddened I was, first, that there would be a need to go into such detail and passionated exhortations about this, because we are all readers here and in my happy little bubble of nerddom I can barely comprehend people NOT wanting to read, and second, as I realized that the parents who really needed that pep talk probably weren’t even present.

In this town, in this school, the “rich” sit in class next to kids from the projects, and the school motto this year is “If you miss school you miss out” because attendance rates are abysmal for the kids living in poverty. My bleeding liberal heart hurts when I consider that; the kids who are impoverished can get two free meals a day at school (even if nothing else), and yet they are often absent because—why? Because their parents don’t care? Because their parents are working too many jobs to be home and get them on the bus? Because they’re taking care of siblings? Chances are if they’re missing school they’re not eating, either. My mind boggles. I have taken so much for granted.

And I have been listening to my children, asking them about their friends and their classes, and realizing that even at seven and nine they are picking up, on some level, who is “like them” and who is not. Chickadee in particular delights in giving me a laundry list, each day, of how many kids got into trouble. This many kids had Think Time! That many kids had Silent Lunch! Soandso was on the tree! (I picture hangman, when she says this, but I think it has to do with losing recess and not with being strung up.) The children my kids have befriended are the offspring of the parents I saw last night. These are the kids whose test scores are high and whose parents are involved and who have plenty to eat and help with their homework, and even still, this is not enough to balance out the Have Nots.

Adequate Yearly Progress was the hot topic of discussion—and constantly being referred to as AYP, which had me imagining the administration leading the school in a hip-hop style pep rally—with the various tests throughout the year being grumbled about as a distraction from the Real Learning. And yes, as I looked at all those charts and graphs and schedules I again wondered why they don’t call NCLB NCLU, instead (No Child Left Untested), but I suppose there has to be some sort of metric.

And this is one of the GOOD schools. I’m confident my kids will get a good education there. What I can’t help wondering is what’s going to happen to those other kids, the ones who need more than that.

The fact that THOSE kids are the reason that MY kids are such stand-outs, and both so well-loved by their teachers, already, isn’t lost on me, either. I feel like I should be apologizing. I’m not sure to whom or for what, exactly, but it’s disconcerting.


  1. Manic Mommy

    In my world, No Child Left Behind is the grant that supplies funding for Dragon Tales and Sesame Street. Guess I’m pretty naive myself.

    I had to Google “AYP,” which either comes up as “Adequate Yearly Progress” as defined by NCLB or “American Yard Products”.

  2. Otto

    I think you saw last night what all the rest of us have seen for a long time – you’re a very good parent. And even in those days when you think it’s all gone pear shaped, you’re still doing a great job of it.

    Ask any teacher what the single biggest factor in a student’s education is and it won’t be good technology, better classrooms, smaller class sizes – it’ll be parental involvement.


  3. kaleigh

    I taught in a very poor district in Mississippi before NCLB. While I was there (an unlicensed teacher who was about 3/4 done with a Masters in teaching, but not yet officially qualified to teach), the state took over the school district because of all the academic failure. It’s amazing, and amazingly disheartening, to see children who really have no interest or desire to read. Or learn. Or behave.

    My kids go to school in an urban public school. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty great. The teachers are there on purpose, not because it’s a good enough job. And I’m a firm believer that if they live in the same part of town with this diverse group of kids, they should go to school with them. And be friends with them.

    I’m so pleased that you made the choice you did. You’ll get used to the Title 1 meetings and some of the other BS, and your kids (and your family) will reap the rewards.

  4. Karen

    Gosh, that’s distressing, to say the least. I often have to remind myself that my well-off district is not a microcosm of my rather well-off city, which is not a microcosm of my reasonably well-off state, and so on. We live in a little bubble up here and pretty much just float along, taking it all for granted.

    P.S. What Otto said.

  5. Leandra

    There was a story on ABC news last night that 27% of Americans did not read a single book last year. That truly makes me sad.

    The thing I hate about NCLB is that it makes teachers “teach to the test” — all the schools are concerned about are their test scores. And rightly so because if they don’t pass they don’t get funding. But they don’t teach to learn anymore.

  6. birchsprite

    Your children can help by example and by befriending those who aren’t as fortunate and helping them.

  7. dad

    Two things:

  8. Katie

    I’m glad you’ve done your homework. The school system is one of the reasons I’d have a hard time moving away from where we are now. We bought into the “best school in the county” and have the housing expenses to prove it.

    I’m with you, “not want to read?” How does that happen?

  9. alice

    It’s depressing, all right. The VA schools are test-mad, and it really depresses me to see how much it weighs on the kids in our after-school program. The kids who don’t speak English ss their first language, especially.

    One thing to note – I’m certain that there are a binch of factors as to why attendance is so poor for the kids in poverty, but one additional factor is that illness is much, much higher among that group as a whole. But thinking about that will just get me onto the whole medical care issue, and that will make me too cranky this morning.

  10. dad

    Oops! Don’t ask.

    Two things:
    First, I accept your apology.
    Second, Otto is a winner. Keep him.

  11. jess

    As a former teacher, I admit that the parents I most wanted to meet at P/T conferences were the ones who didn’t show up. These were the parents of children who were struggling, many times not even with schoolwork itself but with being fed and clothed properly, getting to school, not being overly medicated (because the parents can’t handle them), and just socializing normally. I agree with Otto, most definitely. I always said, as an educator, that parents are the #1 factor in a child’s educational success, whether or not they are geniuses. Just letting a child know that a parent is there for them, to back them up if needed and to cheer them along every day they get up and go to school, can go a long ways in creating a mentally and emotionally healthy child who can stand up for him/herself. I have a very soft heart for the children of absent parents, and I am outraged with the parents themselves. I don’t understand this trend…

    You call it the “mama bear” tendency to defend your child’s right to a decent and fair education: I call it being an excellent parent.

    (And I’m glad you’re fighting for gifted programming for your children, because that was an area I wanted to go into and create more programs for when I was in college. With NCLB, etc., we are tending to focus on children and schools who aren’t doing even the bare minimum and the students on the other end of the spectrum, who need more, are being bypassed. I speak as one of those children from a school district that had programs out the whazoo for “exceptional students” but none for those in the gifted range. In high school, I felt cheated out of a quality education and petitioned, high and low, for the right to take independent studies and actually LEARN something. They refused at first but finally agreed–after much logical and reasonable debate on my part–to let me create my own classroom settings and lesson plan pacing along with one of the teachers in that subject area. I admire your tenacity and wish that more parents were like you. If there were, teachers would probably not be so frustrated.)

    I know it doesn’t mean much, coming from a generally-lurking stranger, but I greatly admire your fight for a quality and beneficial education for your children.

  12. jess

    I forgot to mention in my aside that I was told by several teachers that gifted programming was receiving funding cuts (guess why) and that it was not an area of interest for most school districts any longer. After doing some research in that area, I admit to being frustrated by what seems to be some truth in that. *sighs*

    This is why I am grateful to see parents getting involved in requesting it to be a quality program for their children. Gifted children have special needs as well.

    Ummmmm…I’m done. Sorry to hijack the comments. *looks contrite*

  13. mar

    That whole “reminding people to read” thing is so utterly foreign to me to ….

    Ever since NCLB came into being, I have to agree w/Leandra – the teachers teach to the test, not to a curriculum. It’s not really their fault – so much of their funding to do other things is tied into these test scores. I live in a middle class neighborhood, and we have schools on the watch list – simply because they have special ed classes as part of their scores, etc. The whole thing is ridiculous!

    I understand, yes, there needs to be a metric, but one that dictates the curriculum??? I only half joke that the presidential candidate I vote for will be the one that agrees to dismantle NCLB. Here is an interesting article on NCLB which brings up many good points to argue against NCLB.


    NCLB or not, I firmly believe that parental involvement is key to any successful educational experience (yes, I come from a family of teachers – why do you ask?) – either way, Chickadee and Monkey will do fine w/you on their side!!

  14. Kristen M

    I agree with Otto. I know you only through reading this blog, and your excellent parenting skills shine through daily. You inspire me to be a better parent to my 3-year-old.(They even inspired me to comment; I’m a lurker by nature.)

  15. janet

    otto said it best — both on your parenting skills and teachers’ wish for parent involvement.

    on a vaguely related note, i saw something on the today show yesterday about teens’ heroes. the bottom line: when asked who their heroes are, most teens listed a parent as no. 1 on the list.

    so we matter — at home AND in the classroom.

    keep doing what you’re doing, mir.

  16. Mel

    Ah, the dreaded specter of not meeting AYP. It can demoralize an entire school, and sends the “involved” parents running for the exits.

  17. Laura

    A good friend of mine is a SPED teacher in Denver, and hates the NCLB. Many of their students are learning English as a second language, and so their test scores aren’t great. Because of this, their funding has been cut, and the school has had to completely cut out art and music. I think we can all see what’s wrong with this picture. So now the families who can afford to are taking their children out of the school, leaving only the students too poor to have a choice, which is often the immigrans. So the test scores fall farther, they get even less funding, and the children lose out. Grrr…

    On a different subject, something you may come across in the South (as I did) is gigantic families with not enough to go around. Among certain denominations, birth control is strictly a no-no, and so the families grow faster than their ability to provide for them.
    One year when I was living in TN my mother had a Christmas party for all her co-workers at the garden center where she worked. One of the guys (who made about $6 an hour) showed up with his wife and EIGHT children. (The wife, of course, was not allowed to work.) The two oldest kids – in December – had no shoes. All night we saw them stuffing extra food into their pockets and shirts. My mother started packing food up (not only leftovers, but food from the pantry) and taking it out to their car. Unfortunately when the father saw this, he made his wife bring it all back in – said that God had planned his family, and would provide for it, and they didn’t need any charity. Very, very sad, and it was the kids losing out. Want to bet this father never showed up at parents’ night at the school, either? If you can’t afford enough food or shoes, certainly you can’t afford books.

  18. Ayla-Monic

    Be glad that you’re one of the parents who not only cares, but has the means to be involved.

    Also, be careful and keep an eye on Chickadee and Monkey. I was considered “gifted” throughout grade school and I was a notorious slacker because of it once I got into the higher grades. Make sure they keep that momentum up.

  19. Stephanie Chance

    One has to wonder how great the gifted program is if the school is struggling to just meet AYP.

    I’m impressed that you would work to get your kids into a school that you know is not perfect to begin with, and then want to work to improve it instead of just complaining about the school. You are showing them a great example of social responsibility.

    Maybe you can spearhead a campaign to encourage more parental involvement. Perhaps start a newsletter? :) *ducking*

  20. Stephanie Chance

    I just read Ayla-Monic’s comment, and I second that. I always made good grades in grade school and barely had to do any work. But when I got to college and actually had to study, I found it extremely hard. Make sure they know HOW to study even if they may not have to. But I know you already know that. :)

  21. Marie

    I agree with Leandra. Our kids are taught to take a test so they can get more money. Period. At least 3 months of every school year is devoted to studyng for the test.

    I am involved in my sons school & am shocked at the parents who simply do not care.

  22. Jerseygirl89

    NCLB and AYP are some of the reasons I quit teaching. . .and don’t intend to go back when my children are older. I taught in a school that sounds similar to yours – a mix of typically “middle class” families and typically “project, urban, poverty-stricken” families. Ours was such a good school that we did make AYP – at first. Because we were so successful, we had a huge influx of students from failing schools. Then we got a new principal who only looked good on paper. Now the school is failing. My advice? Stay involved and befriend the teachers – that will be the best way to make sure that the school is working well and that your children are being educated regardless of “The Test”.

    Oh, about Gifted Ed? In my generally urban, poor district it was much harder to get into Gifted then it was in the suburbs because they didn’t want to spend the money. If the kids weren’t doing at least five projects of their own initiative, on their own time, per month they didn’t get in.

  23. Barb Cooper

    Man, and I thought I couldn’t be more depressed.

    We chose the “move to the over-priced suburb for the good schools” approach and so far, it’s working for us. Texas has this horrible Robin Hood plan for financing its schools, though, so we still give a lot of money to the district to fund things like, um, libraries. My kids don’t see a lot of diversity but they do get a gifted program that has money and staff behind it.

    I’m feeling so sad about the plight of children in general today because our next door neighbor’s 17-year-old son was killed over the weekend in a car accident. A more gifted, better parented kid would be very rare.

    I just…

    It seems…

    Well. Hug your babies. Do the best you can. And remember that since the REAL plastic bubble doesn’t exist, we just have to do what we can to create it in the form of education and involvement and lots of books.


  24. MMM

    We live in an area on academic probation. That’s another reason we homeschool. And private schools got to be too expensive.
    It’s SO SAD, all the things that you mentioned. I’ve seen these things firsthand because of the district we live in. And my oldest daughter even went to a private school in an area that wasn’t so great. The school had NO money beacuse they gave discounts to the poorer families. It is so sad that children go hungry or have no one to get them to school.

  25. Sasha

    I was a research assistant for a school district that consisted of about 11 schools(can’t remember the exact number now) which ranged from elementary through high school.

    What I recall of NCLB was that it was a waste and farce because children were being left behind left and right and if they weren’t physically, schools were fudging numbers and finding loopholes to help raise their scores and therefore raise their AYP so they could get more funding. This left many kids victim to social promotion and gave parents a false sense of their kid’s development.

    When I left that job, I felt that AYP was a joke because I knew our numbers weren’t exact.

    The fact that you’re hearing what you are hearing astounds me. It sounds like you have yourself an honest school which blows me away.

    My kids go to school in the best school district in our entire state. Yet, I still question whether it’s true or not. I think AYP and the notion of best school districts are really a pipe dream. They may or may not reflect a truth but I think when it all comes down to it, it still falls heavily on the teachers that our children have throughout their academic careers.

    Some children are lucky to have parents who are involved.

    Others aren’t. Being one of those children whose parent barely new what school I was attending and having attended schools on the wrong side of the tracks. I can tell you- If it weren’t for my teachers who inspired me and told me I could do anything I set my mind to,really, who knows were I would be exactly? I have an idea, and it isn’t good.

  26. The Other Leanne

    I grew up in a single-parent family back when I was the ONLY one in my class in that situation. We were barely making it financially. And yet, my mother read to me, my sisters read to me, I read to me; there was never a question about getting up and going to school even if I had holes in my shoes. My mom worked all day and still managed to go to Open Houses so she could meet my teachers and have those important conversations. We all understood that the way up in the world was through education. Poverty is not an excuse for neglecting your children.
    However, the wonderful State of California also made sure that there was day care and a hot lunch (pretty progressive)for any child who needed it in my district. It’s not only the parents who are neglecting these children–the guvmint has failed to support the growing numbers of families who are struggling among us. No Child Left Behind shouldn’t be about educational testing, but about nutrition and health care and and Head Start and day care and parenting programs and substance abuse treatment.
    Say Amen!

  27. LuAnn

    No Child Left Behind – bah humbug.

  28. arduous

    I volunteer for a reading program that works in association with elementary schools here in Los Angeles, and one day, I was in the class room, looking at the 5th grade schedule, when I realized, to my horror, that because of NCLB, science and social studies have almost been completely excised from the schedule. And that made me really sad.

    I also used to work for a company that helped teachers prep for the NCLB test. And yes, it required an hour of instruction time every day to “teach the test” to the students. NCLB=sucks.

  29. Avalon

    I, like The Other Leanne, grew up poor with a single mother at the helm. At any given time, she worked 2 jobs outside the home and typed legal papers at home for the Ivy league law students for cash. Yet, I can never recall a school function that she missed. I could always count on seeing her beaming face in the crowd, her coming into my bedroom after a parent-teacher meeting to discuss what had been said. She taught me the love of reading by example. My Mother did not have a lot of time or money to give, but she had all of herself to give. Poverty is simply not a good enough excuse for me.

  30. Stephanie

    Amen (see The Other Leanne) :)

  31. ikate

    Oh, the stories I could tell. My mother has been a teacher for 30+ years. My sister for 10 years. Both bemoan NCLB but more so they hate the AYP crap. My sister’s school is the top in her district in test scores and one of the top 25 in the state (Ohio) but failed to make AYP – I have no idea how that all adds up, but it seems pretty crazy to me.

    I work at a private school and parents flock here to flee NCLB and what it is doing to our schools, wealthy and poor. We have always had a huge demand for scholarships, but in the last few years that demand had increased 10-fold. We are the only independent school in the region (independent = no state $ so no testing mandates). And those families have horor stories from their NCLB and AYP-based public schools.

  32. Ruth

    mmm. Hits home a little. Our neighborhood school busses in kids (for diversity) from the much less fortunate parts of the city and those childrens’ basic need for parenting drains the resources (time and energy and even focus) from the balance of what is needed. Also, the teachers were assigning my kids homework that would force the parent to participate – “take it home and rewrite after your mom proofreads” “have your mom do this part while you…” constantly. Does that help the kids whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t? I wanted to spend my time with them in activities that would enhance what they were offered in school rather than be a crutch to it. So I found an alternative. I guess the whole system sucks except for those who have millionaires paying for it. And you still had to buy dry erase markers for them. I never brought chalk to school as a kid…

  33. Taylor

    I grew up in Alabama and went to a public school that is consistently rated one of the top public schools in the South East. We’re located in a college town where education is highly important, and as the only high school in the city, we never had to compete for funding. It was remarkable, too, because not only was it well funded, it was also incredibly diverse. And I don’t just mean black and white. I shared classes with Muslims, Indians, Africans, Russians, Filipios, Koreans, Japanese, even a Mongolian.

    When I left my little sheltered cocoon of high school and moved to South Carolina, I was shocked to see how spoiled I had been. The schools here in Charleston are terrible, and listening to the news every night depresses me. It breaks my heart to know that so many kids are growing up without support from their parents or their communities. I, too, think about how few of them eat regular meals when they aren’t at school. It’s scary, isn’t it?

  34. LadyBug Crossing

    What it all comes down to is how much the parents value education. Do they value it enough to show up and participate? Do they value education enough to make sure their children get their homework done? Parents don’t want to spend the time helping with homework, volunteering in the classroom, and raising money for their schools. They just can’t be bothered. They leave it for the rest of us. I’m to the point where I’m ready to say, “Why should I?.”

    I have always told my kids that they can get an excellent education out of the crappiest school in the nation as long as they work hard.


  35. Suzanne

    Welcome to Georgia.
    I’ve been involved with my child’s classes and schools from the minute we moved to Georgia, and am always surprised at the lack of what appears to be interest, on the parts of the other parents. They don’t come to class parties, they don’t volunteer or go on field trips and according to some of the kids, never read to their children. It’s scary and sad. Be involved and you’ll make a difference in a million children’s lives. It’s very rewarding and the least we can do.

  36. Oh, The Joys

    Welcome to Georgia, ranked 48th in education!!! (or was that 49th?)

  37. Stephanie Chance

    oh, the joys, you must be thinking of Mississippi. Georgia is currently placed at 41, slightly higher than my home state, Alabama, at 45. Surprisingly, also higher than California, where one would think money would not be a problem. They are probably more focused on spending the money than actually learning, though.

  38. Massiel

    My sister is an ESL teacher at a really good public school in my city (I live in New Jersey.) When NCLB came into play, she got stuck with some students that have mental disabilities – kids with conditions that she’s never been taught how to teach, nor is she certified to teach them. It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve EVER heard.

  39. ikate

    Oh, Mir – I just had to share this story given your pick-up line woes. At least I hadn’t gotten to this point yet: a couple in my town were convicted of assault for beating on an older woman who was picking up her granddaughter at Glendale-Feilbach Elementary School.

    The woman was confused as to the procedure as it was her first time doing the pick-up. A mother thought she had cut in line and so she got out of her car and dragged the grandma from the car and beat her – all in a school parking lot!


  40. carrien

    I homeschool, and I have a friend who teaches in the public school system. I was showing her the list of state required subjects that I need to teach, including how many minutes each day needs to be spent on phys. Ed, science, music or art, etc. She looked at me and said, “Kids in public school don’t even do half of this. There is not way they do half an hour of phys ed. outside of recess, or take art or music, science is down to one hour a week.” It shocked me. And I was sad for all of those kids, even while I was reminded that I am homeschooling so my children get a good education and find learning exciting.

  41. tori

    I live in the same nerdy bubble as you (crowded in here, isn’t it?) where I had no idea that there were people who didn’t know you were supposed to read to your kids. When we moved into our new neighborhood, I was talking to the mom of one of my son’s friends, and the topic was bedtime rituals. I said something about reading to each of my kids individually each night but only for 30 minutes each, and she said something about how she didn’t know you were even supposed to read to your kids at all. She honestly had no idea you are supposed to read to your kids. I thought it was something everyone knew.

    It is really sad to me that there is no better way to help the kids who have parents who just don’t know or can’t or won’t help them in school.

  42. Cindi B

    I teach in CO and my staff secretly calls NCLB “No Teacher Left Standing”. It’s stressful. It’s time-consuming. It’s ridiculous.

  43. Lynda Hitt

    I read the comments and the entry to your blog and it just confirms to me one of the reasons that we choose to homeschool, besides the living on the truck thing. I have a child who is above average in a couple of subjects and I know that he would be bored to tears in most public schools. I am able to keep on top of what he is excelling at and what he is struggling with and meet the needs.
    I’m glad, Mir, that you have found the place that you want your kids to attend and I know that they will do well because you are a parent that will be involved in your child’s education. And as for the not reading thing, I don’t understand it either, except that I know that there is a large percentage of the graduating population that can’t read on a third grade level.

  44. Fairly Odd Mother

    No Child Left Behind seems to really mean that some children will be left behind, but we’ll just pretend that this ridiculous system is working.

    And, I second Otto’s comment above—parents have to become more involved in their children’s education. But, I suppose if you can barely afford rent, food, clothing, etc. education probably falls to the bottom of the pile, y/k?

  45. julie

    When Lil Daughter was entering public kindergarten, we had her tested for the Gifted Program. The key word is “tested”. The “test” was given in a room with three teachers and the child. No parents allowed. Afterwards, I said,”How was the test? What did they do?” She replied, kind of rolling her 4 yr old eyes, “Hannah, walk to the door. Touch the door. Turn around. Count to ten. And I said, ‘In English or Dutch?'”.
    Afterwards, I realized that the so-called “Gifted” children were the ones whose parents read to them, exposed them to different cultures, took them to museums. Yes, they were far more advanced than some other kids. But not because they were so much more brilliant. But, because they have parents who took the time and effort to be involved…and who had the where-with-all to get them to a test across town at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

  46. mama speak

    We live in the Bay Area in CA. The contrast of have and have nots here is striking. It was important to me to remain in this area for the diversity (I was so shocked when I went to college & the only people of another race were African American, a smattering of various Asian individuals and that was it.) I loved growing up w/so many different cultures around me. Now a parent myself, we moved to an “upscale” neighborhood w/very good schools, (for the schools) and there went diversity. Our neighborhood is so white it glows. However, being an involved parent we join into activities where my daughters’ are exposed to many people from many different backgrounds (not to mention friends of ours)so it’s not completely lost.

    Because of NCLB the schools in this area (good ones included) do not have the funds for things like science, art, PE, music, etc…However, the parents think it’s important so we raise the money to fund these things. At my niece & nephew’s school parents with art degrees come in to teach art every week. The school has a yearly festival in which they raise the money to fund the school’s music teacher & supplies…things like that. I wonder where all the tax money is going, but I’m glad the parents are at least making sure these things happen for our kids.

    On the note of reading; (I’m in that bubble with you, “hey can you get your elbow out of my rib cage? thanks.”) Just tonight we were at a neighbor’s house & discussing bed times. I mentioned it was “daddy’s night” to put the girls to bed. He neighbor kinda laughed and said, “We both have to work to put the kids to bed.” And I said, “We have the same routine every night, but we switch off who does it so they get to be with us individually and we get a break. And if the kids mess around getting ready for bed no stories.”

    He replied, “You read to them every night?”

    This is from the good side of the tracks.

    Dude, this country is so screwed.

  47. Cele

    I think a large part comes down to how we were raised ourselves and how much emphasis was put on education and being everything you can possibly be.

    For the most part I was a single parent. I sometimes worked three jobs, but my daughter’s well being, happiness, and education were always first in my thoughts. It was because that was how I was raised, I passed it on.

    I see so many people (aka parents) who put themselves first and their children…on a list…somewhere…next Tuesday.

  48. Barb

    I teach kindergarten in a mid-sized public school in the middle of Missouri. NCLB and AYP hang over me every minute of every school day. Missouri developed a set of guidelines for what every child should be learning at each grade level called the Grade Level Expectations, or GLEs. Every single thing I do with my kindergarteners MUST be related directly to a GLE or I cannot justify doing it. Rephrase – my administration cannot justify me doing it. Do you have any IDEA how NCLB, AYP, and the GLEs have just sucked the fun right out of kindergarten? I didn’t even order any construction paper this year, because I no longer have time to do those fun and cute craft projects that used to be a hallmark of a kindergarten classroom. I’m too busy teaching them to read, add, subtract, and (according to one of my social studies GLEs) understand the concepts of opportunity costs and scarcity. Did I mention they are kindergartners, for crying out loud?

    As for the reading to your kid thing – we participate in the Pizza Hut Book It reading program. Our expectations are pretty low and only ask each family to read FOUR books in a month to their child in exchange for a free pizza. You would not believe how many families can’t seem to manage this! Four books a stinking month! I often read four books a night to each of my boys!

    Every year I pray for just a few parents like you Mir, who care enough to show up to meetings and conferences and who actually understand that what I do with their children is valuable and worth supporting. Instead I get a depressing majority who view my classroom as a free daycare and any problems that occur with their child between 8:00 am and 3:00 pm as strictly MY problem.

  49. Megan

    Oh, you’re singing my song. We moved from a super-fabulous school in Alaska (so good I STILL bore people with stories about it, and that was years ago) to a school in Virginia where… well, I had never, ever heard of teaching to a test before we got there but MAN did these people open my eyes. See, the teachers were paid (even hired/fired) on the basis of their class’s test scores. So when we arrived (mid-year) the principle was so amazingly rude, so incredibly unwelcoming and inhospitable I nearly cried when I realized my children were going to have to go there. It wasn’t for a day or two I realized it was because my kids were UnTested and therefore a potential danger. It was very funny when we moved out only a year later to encounter the same rudeness and unhappiness, this time because three teachers were counting on my kids to help raise the darn average!

    Oh, and I normally don’t do this, but I did post about this very thing only a couple of days ago:

  50. stace

    I am also a teacher and I concur with your other teacher-readers about what NCLB is doing to our schools. The formula used for test scores and annual improvement is mathematically impossible to sustain. Many of my co-teachers feel that NCLB is the federal governments’ plan to dismantle public schools…after all, so many people don’t vote and so many vote against their own economic self-interest…there is a certain political party that benefits from keeping people ignorant and down. Did anyone see the article recently about liberal vs conservative reading rates?

  51. Jen

    Ok, I’ll admit it. I loathe reading. I read a great deal to find information but just reading for fun? Naah, I’d rather go to the dentist. I remember when I was young enjoying it but as I got older and began to have required reading in school, I started to hate it. Maybe I just don’t like being told what to do … :)

  52. amy

    I am a very involved parent (former teacher too) who has just started sending our 16 year old to the local public school (we were private all the way with our oldest and private until high school by his choice with our youngest). This is also a diverse school. I have found however that it is not that parents do not care in general, but they are tired in the evenings. They often work two jobs, have many kids, and some do not speak English as a first language so it is extremely difficult for them to attend the meetings, read to their kids,etc..Although most of us in the blogging world would not dream of not attending a meeting about our children’s school or of not reading to our kids or not insisting on something for them re: gifted programs or special needs or what have you, the rest of the world does not necessarily put their energy into those things. Often they find teachers intimidating, and they are not confident themselves about what questions they should ask. I am trying to figure out a way to get them more involved myself -but not sure of the best approach. I can say however that they do care and love their children as much as we all do. I think it is more a matter of how to get them to understand that the world of a child’s school is a very important world to get involved in more so than maybe anything else.

  53. nan

    People! You can make a difference. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. The kids who need your help will be the same generation as your own kids, for ever. If you can enrich their lives somehow, you are helping your own childrens’ future.

  54. kate

    As you can see, NCLB brings out lots of feelings in people. Anger in me, it’s all about the almighty dollar, I’ll leave it at that.

    In a country where celebrity is, well, celebrated and rewarded with fortune, is it really surprising that reading and education has become unimportant?

  55. Dave

    AYP: All Your Parents Are Belong To Us

    My son just turned four. I dread his entry into the public school system, although our town’s schools are supposedly very good.

    I’m glad I didn’t know what AYP stood for. All too soon, I’ll be there.

  56. angie

    Those kids who don’t make it school might have to deal with parents OD’ing on their way out the door. Or they may have to get themselves and their little siblings to school because of working or distracted parents.

    And the school probably throws a lot of incentives at parents like yourselves so you will keep your children in the school.

    My daughter went to a school like that many years ago.

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