Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Playground of Denial

My son is a freshman at California High School. He is currently enrolled in an online Algebra 2 course with BYU, which he is acing, achieving between 95 to 100% on his section tests.

Yesterday he went into his counseling office at school to drop off an application for final testing required by the state to prove he has achieved proficiency in Algebra 2. He handed the application to a counselor, who, unsolicited, informed him he would likely fail the Pre-Calculus class at Cal High he would be taking in 10th grade. She then assured him “most every student who takes the online Algebra 2 class fails Pre-Calc.”

He told me about this encounter when I picked him up after school. He was upset by her offhanded comments predicting his failure, especially since he's spending several hours a day, including the weekends online, working through the Algebra 2 class the school recommended, which will allow him to advance to the Pre-Calc class in the fall.

I emailed the school counseling center administrator with the following: “That this school counselor would confront my son with this messaging is beyond a poor choice on her part. It scared my son, entered doubt, and set him up to fail. Shame on her! Additionally, any school counselor with this kind of messaging should NOT be counseling students.”

Her response: “I know that [our counselors] would not tell a student that they would fail to pass the Algebra test. If he misunderstood her message, I am sorry.”

In the 12 years I have been dealing with the California public school system, no teacher or admin has EVER admitted to making any mistakes, has NEVER apologized for poor instruction or judgment, or their all too often lack of follow through.

Cal High has a 34% college readiness score, according to US News and World Report, which does a comprehensive study annually of US high schools. Cal High is failing, badly, clearly. My son, however, is a straight A student, and has been since 4th grade. He takes his studies seriously, obviously, and has earned trust, unlike Cal High.

I've blogged about problems with the public school system many times, and in particular this issue of denying personal responsibility, as every teacher and admin I've encountered has. The counseling admin at Cal High blindly defended her staff instead of, at least, looking into my son's allegation. Shame on her! Her school is failing to achieve even the minimal standards of advancing their students to college, yet, my son 'misunderstood' the ignorant counselor who did nothing wrong, according to her.

At the Parent Night last week, this admin stood in front of over 500 parents and told us that we should try and get our kids to at least achieve a D- in their classes because that way they get credit for the class. Again, shame on her!! What she should have said is if your student is getting a D in a class they should take it again, and again, until their grade is a C or better. But of course, that doesn't serve her, or the school. And since there is no accountability for teachers or admins success, they push for high school kids to get out in four years, educated, or not, isn't their issue. Too bad if these kids can't compete in the global economy because they don't understand the basics of math or science or how to write a paper, and therefore can't get into, or fail out of college. Not their problem. They still get their annal pay increases and their bloated pensions for working part time with summers and so many holidays, both federal and 'teacher work days' off.

The systemic problem with public education is NOT budget issues or lack of funding. Our public school system is in crisis, putting out kids that can't get into college and subsequently can't get jobs competing against foreign nationals who have the education and chops to do the work required in the real world. But the public school system isn't the real world. It's a protected haven, a monolithic autonomous monstrosity of teachers and administrators acting like bratty children on the playground of denial without adult supervision to hold them accountable for their behavior.

The only way to change this sovereign behemoth is to demand results from your kids schools. Demand teachers test frequently on material, a practice that's becoming non-existent, furthering the school systems lack of accountability. My daughter has had two tests in her 6th grade science class since the start of school in September of last year. And both were open book, which is also becoming common. With no real testing, there is no way parents can monitor student progress. Demand teachers test from memory frequently, and demand administrators hold them accountable for educating their students.

Bending over and writing checks, and voting for more and more funding through property taxes will not change our corrupted public school system. Parents and voters have a choice—Accept the status quo and expect their kids to be living at home well into their adult years while they apply for jobs that are given to more qualified candidates from private and off-shore schools, or go beyond just blindly funding them and get involved by demanding accountability and changes from our K-12 public education system. 



1 comment:

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