When Do You Walk Away?

Met with a supervisor and the principal of my daughter's elementary school last week. I called the meeting to talk about the failing school, the new principal having dropped the school's API scores by a whooping 15% her first year there. The elementary was failing before her. The last principal, a promoted third grade teacher, brought our award-winning, California Distinguished School down as well. She was replaced by the current principal, with no experience as a principal, she was never even a teacher, comes from the admin side of the school district. And she doesn't listen to parents who tell her anything she doesn't want to hear.

I can't fire her. I have no authority to stop her from continuing on her failing path. I have no authority to stop paying her, or even reprimand her. She'll get a cost-of-living raise like most every other year. We pay almost $1,000 in add-on parcel taxes to the schools now, and they're asking for more again. And they'll get it, by threatening parents that things will get even worse at school if they don't get more money.

So I'm climbing the ladder of the current principal's superiors to get them to put in some, any accountability into their education system. But they don't want to change their policies, or make educators work harder, or be accountable. They want their jobs tomorrow, like the principal, like the newbie teachers she keeps hiring.

To date, I've spent endless hours and heart-wrenching frustration trying to help turn around this failing school. We moved to this community when the elementary was award-winning. We moved for the schools, for our kids. Now we're stuck in a school system that won't listen to anything they don't want to hear. We can't afford to move. The housing values here were hit very hard. They're not likely to go up much any time too soon. Housing values in suburban areas are largely based on the school API scores. Failing schools lowers home values and keep them low.

I'm tired of fighting educators to do what is right. And I'm sad a lot. Even with the below, bulleted list of action items, I'm getting nowhere fighting a district that cares more about keeping their jobs and maintaining their omnipotence then the community and kids they are hired to serve.

● Teachers are not required to correct homework or tests by any school or district policy. In fact, they have no requirements to return assigned work at all, and often don't. 
● When homework is requested to be returned to student/parent, it isn't corrected, or only minimal, inadequate corrections applied. Teacher consistently ignores most misspellings, grammatical errors, and incorrect mathematics.
● Teacher's aids and other students are now correcting most tests. Teacher is not required to make sure they are corrected right, but simply record the grade.
● Teachers have no requirement to return homework and tests within a few days, and often don't, for a week or more, killing consistency and continuity in learning.
● Teachers choose how often they test, give homework what homework to give, whether they return assigned work or not. Their ONLY requirement is to meet California Standards— which ranks D minus, and 46th in the nation, close to the bottom, though we pay the highest teacher salaries nationally.
● The school district has awarded themselves furlough days, teacher work days, recess days, half days and short Wednesdays--students out at 1:00pm every Wed. There are only 168 full time school days, and getting less annually, though the schools get their add-on parcel taxes every year.
● The school district imposes NO WRITTEN STANDARDS on their schools, principals, teachers. They have vague 'policies' directed at the students, NOT the teachers or admin in regards to appropriate behavior, homework requirements and testing. In fact, our school systems has NO REQUIRMENTS at all other then teachers must fulfill California State Standards issued by the State Board of Education.

And I can't convince them, even with these simple action items, to put in place a set of baseline TEACHING STANDARDS.

And I'm tired now. And I cry a lot, too.

I too, am losing the will to fight the system. I can't change it. Clearly. Other parents have commented on my blog posts on public education that I'm anti-teacher; hateful; stupid; blind to teacher's plight. I was a teacher, have my K-12 Credentials, taught for five years. I'm also the parent of two kids going through the failing public school system. And I'd rather be working my job, making money, taking care of and playing with my family than writing these blogs and meeting with teachers, principals and admin not doing their job.

I wish I could be like all the self-righteous who keep defending the public school system instead of tackling what is wrong with it. Or perhaps just bend over and write another check, and tra la la go off to my job and ignore that my kids are being screwed by a system with no accountability.

But if no one speaks out, ever, if we all just toe the party line, or write another check, how is our education system going to get any better? U.S. Education ranks average, in many cases far lower than other industrial nations. America has received scores around 500 on a global scale that goes up to 1,000, and our scores are going down annually. Fast. How are our kids supposed to get a job in our global economy without the education to compete?

But I'm tired now, and so unbelievably disheartened, meeting with teachers, principals and admin, just to be condescended to, and then ignored. I'm too sad, too often to continue fighting for what I know is right, knowing I'm not getting anywhere, and no matter how much time and energy I devote to trying to improve our failing system I won't change a thing. Frustrated, exhausted and sad all the time isn't helping my kids.

When do you walk away from a cause you believe in? When the cost seems greater than the investment, how does one sustain the impetus to proceed? I want to ignore the destructive path our education system is on. I want to so bad! But I don't know how to turn a blind eye, be sated with my cable TV at night instead of investing my time and energy to fight for what is right.

But my conviction is waning...


Anonymous said...

You are making a difference!! People can say the same thing about voting, why vote, I am only 1 person among many. Then Gore loses the presidency by some infinitesmal amount, probably from those people that thought their vote didn't make a difference. Others are protesting as well, you just don't know, and the school administration isn't going to tell you that you aren't alone.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you just home-school your kids?

J. Cafesin said...

I have to pay the bills, and add on taxes the school wants, and homeschooling takes time which costs money I don't have. We pay the taxes whether we home school or not.

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said for homeschooling your children. At that point, you know what they are and aren't learning.