School starts tomorrow.
(And all of God’s people said “AMEN.” And possibly “Thank you, Jesus!” And maybe even “I love you so much, now GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.”)
Last year, we were new, and the school the kids’ attend was somewhat in flux for a variety of reasons that aren’t important or particularly interesting. And the amount of information we—as a new family, having no idea what the heck was going on—were given was… well, I won’t say they gave us NO information, but it was… LACKING, is all I’m saying. We did find out about back-to-school night, at least. But we were never given a bus number. And no one told us about the Parent Coffee thing that would’ve been extremely useful to me, you know, as a NEW PARENT TO THE SCHOOL. Whatever.
This year, we’re all settled in and information is flowing out our ears, whether we like it or not.
Oh, we’ve got a bus number, for example. It’s not the same bus number as last year, because that would make too much sense. I suspect there is a small room where monkeys fling their own feces at an area map, and based upon the trajectories and landings, the bus routes are plotted. Awesome!
And we’ve gotten a VERY entertaining letter from the principal which we of course did not receive last year—being new—and it has continued my edumakation about my new friend, the AYP metric, in glorious fashion.
To refresh your memory: AYP is Adequate Yearly Progress, and in an impoverished (read: failing) school district such as ours, it’s a Very Big Deal. Every year there are tests, and the tests have tests and then when the testing is over they test the kids some more, and then the poo-flinging bus map monkeys crunch those numbers and reports come out, and THEN, my darlings, the principal sends a letter out.
The letter reads something like this:
Dear Parent of Child at Neighborhood School,
The Your County School District began implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act during the 2002-2003 school year. The purpose of the Act is to make sure that your children spend half their school time being tested while we continue not to address the underlying issue of poverty in this area.
At Neighborhood School, we take much pride in the educational opportunities we are able to provide for our children. Our teachers and staff members work very hard to meet the needs of all the students, even though this is a Herculean task what with the overcrowding and the number of students whose basic needs are not being met. We know that our students are learning and making progress, even though we continue flunking the standardized tests because so many of our students need more help than we can possibly provide on this crappy budget.
This year, our school continues to be identified as “Needs Improvement” under the No Child Left Behind Act. Here’s a big list of things we’re doing to continue to improve, and of course our goal, as always, is to be removed from that list in the coming year, but also we’re hoping for pink ponies to escort the children to and from classes, because it’s good to have goals that way, don’t you agree?
Anyway, here’s the point: We are legally obligated to offer you the opportunity to transfer your child to a different school in your zone, if you want, on account of the failing status of this one. There are two other schools in your zone. Below is a chart of the test scores, to aid your decision-making. You can either stay at this school—which, let’s face it, is the best of the bunch, really—or you can choose one of the others. Alternate School A essentially has the same scores as our Neighborhood School, but they sucked SO BADLY last year that they are now achieving AYP based upon their improvement, even though that only brings them up to the level of our (failing) school. Alternate School B has higher scores than our Neighborhood School, but they ALSO failed to make AYP, based on their lack of progress.
If, after reading this entire letter, you still want to transfer your kid, here’s the form to use. Requests need to be submitted immediately. Or maybe in the next two months. Whatever. We are really too busy trying to figure out the dozen other issues with getting the school year started to deal with this, anyway. Thanks!
Overworked Principal of Neighborhood School
Needless to say, we’re not transferring.
We’re not transferring because I love this little limping school. I love the principal and I love (most of) the teachers and I love the gifted program (mostly because I enjoy reading letters from second-grade Shakespeare) and I am still committed to the public education system, flawed though it may be. So. Here we are.
We had Monkey’s 504 meeting, and I’m excited for him about this year. His teacher is someone very different than last year (ahem… thank the lord), and the team is well aware of what went wrong last year, and also things have vastly improved for Monkey this summer due to a little thing I like to call the gift of pharmacology. (And I have to say, too, that I didn’t realize exactly HOW ANXIOUS he had become—or, more accurately, how much it was impacting his daily life—until we managed to address that and SUDDENLY he was a happy-go-lucky kid again. And then I smacked myself on the head and said “Of course. THIS is the Monkey he used to be.”) He’s excited to go back to school and I am excited for him. His best buddy is in his class and All Is Well.
Chickadee is excited about her teacher, too, and HER best buddies are in her class, and this is (*SOB*) her last year of elementary school and I think it’s going to be a good one.
So last night was Meet Your Teacher combined with an ice cream social, and it was UTTER MAYHEM. Wall-to-wall kids and parents and siblings and excitement and chatter. And because this is the south and we know how to do it up right, we had a Chick-fil-A tent. And because we had a Chick-fil-A tent, we also had THE CHICK-FIL-A COW.
Oh yes we did. A great big cow, walking around, wearing the “Eat Mor Chickin” sandwich board.
This was awesome, because it was not exciting enough for all the kids to see their classrooms, meet their teachers, see all of their friends, and eat ice cream. We totally also needed a giant cow dancing around in the cafeteria.
We met up with friends of ours, after weaving amongst the tables, and as Monkey squeezed his pal Franklin within an inch of his life, Chickadee set about fussing over Franklin’s little 3-year-old sister. Her name is Chiquita—not Chickadee, no; but both girls go by Chickie for short. Which results in Chickadee referring to Chiquita as “Little Chickie” and Chiquita referring to Chickadee as “My Chickie.”
I said hello to everyone and then leaned down to Chiquita, who was busy scooping ice cream into her mouth while trying to look all around at everything happening in the cafeteria.
“Hi, Chickie!” I said. “Are you having some ice cream?”
She looked up at me and then pointed with her spoon. “DERE IS A COW OVER DERE!” she told me, awe in her voice, stabbing her spoon towards the dancing cow for emphasis.
I don’t know why, but this struck me as hilarious. There we were, packed into the cafeteria like sardines, a million things happening at once, and Little Chickie really had her pulse on what mattered—the mind-blowing incongruity of a cow walking on two legs in the middle of it all.
Yep. We’re all ready to start school again, and it feels like home.