Quitting Public School

Michael McBride

2/28/2007 8:43:18 AM - Michael McBride

I am through. After this semester, I am pulling my daughter from public school. I won’t be enrolling her in private school either. It is pretty obvious to me that between the diminishing capabilities of teachers to grab students’ attention, and increasing social pressures for adolescents…that the high school environment is not the place to be “learning”…school related subjects at least.

Don’t get me wrong…I am not a snob. I grew up in a working class suburb of Detroit, where I attended public elementary school, junior high school, and senior high school. My parents thought well of the district and its opportunities. And my brothers and I were greeted by enthusiastic teachers that challenged us, and showed a great deal of interest in their students and classes. We had, and used, wonderful science labs, up to date facilities, and robust extra-curricular programs.

All four of us went to college. Two of us went to private colleges, even though times were tough in the mid-70’s. My other two brothers attended two of Michigan’s public universities. We are all well rounded and successful, and you would not be able to sort out which of us attended which university.

Which is why I strongly believe the great equalizer was our public primary education. My mother retired as an elementary school principal from the same district. So I was a believer in our public schools…”was” is the operative word. Past tense.

For a number of years we went along with my daughter’s teachers’ recommendations. We have suffered through the mediocre dissemination of knowledge. We met indifference and incompetence, and worse, apathy and denial. We have encountered scant little passion, and even less competency. In short, it has been pathetic.

We had her in Title I Math when she was struggling. It must’ve helped…she soon had an A+ in Title I Math, and the teachers seemed quite pleased with themselves.

Getting an A+ in Title I Math seemed a bit incongruous to me, so we asked what needed to be done to get our daughter back in the mainstream instruction so that she could get back on track with her peers in Math. We received some quizzical looks in return. We suggested that she be given any make up work to be done over the approaching Christmas Holiday break. This time we were met by …hmmmms, and …ahhhhs…, but no make up work came home over the holidays.

At semester break we insisted…she was given a load of work, which she completed at “A” level within a week. While I am sure the Title I staff were patting themselves on the back for helping “so much,” their inattentiveness to my daughter’s progress, and their inability to grasp the irony of someone getting an A+ in a Title I program, began to open my eyes as to how much work would be involved in getting her through public schools.

We have experienced… “Well, a B in my class, is a good grade.” All the while the teacher had missed the point that my daughter consistently got the same type of problem wrong, collecting a B in the process. Even after pointing this out to the teacher that there didn’t seem to be much time spent on trend analysis, we were greeted with…”Well, a B is still a good grade, in my class.” I guess it would be OK for my daughter to have never learned division of fractions, as long as she go a B in the course.

For middle school and high school we exercised an option to attend another adjacent district. Our current district is smaller, with a smaller high school, and is less spread out geographically. We thought this would have its advantages. We were incorrect.

We were faced this similar academic issues, combined with administrative ineptitude matched only by the incomparable Inspector Clouseau. My daughter was forced to apologize to a student for “hurting her feelings,” (although I have since concluded that this is a regular occurrence in middle school and the main intention of most adolescent girls), even though, by the time the apology was forced, it was already well established that the crying plaintiff was lying.

Last semester there was the reading of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” My daughter, a tenth grader, is an adept reader who has handled more advanced English courses, so taking a Senior’s English course was not discouraged. The pace for reading “To Kill a Mockingbird.” was established at an arduous, one chapter per week. My daughter finished the book in ten days, and she was idled in the class for the next six weeks, and by the time the test on the book was given, she had read the book a total of five times. It was a monumental waste of educational opportunity, and astonishingly inefficient.

Five weeks into this semester we have had three lost homework assignments by the Math teacher, who, of course denied losing them. My daughter, at our insistence, copies every homework assignment and produced copies the next day. Finally, one of his Teacher’s Assistants admitted that he may have “thrown it away.”

There was the barely chaperoned field trip to downtown Portland with the Textiles teacher to visit three separate sites, which by its nature, then required high school girls to traipse around the seedier parts of Portland on their own. Also, no information sheet sent home on specifics for dress, lunch money, walking distances, etc. and et al. Oh, three enterprising girls pre-positioned a car downtown, and left shortly after arriving in the morning.

There is the same Textiles teacher who complained about my daughter’s work, then demonstrated several stitches on a garment as an example, then later critiqued her own work as not being up to par. My daughter pointed this out to her. Not sure what to tell my daughter on that one.

There is again, the Math teacher who when asked by my daughter about the prospect of a quiz the following day, was told that there would not be one, and then the Math teacher gave one…not sure if he lies to his Football team like that or not.

There is the Careers teacher who has sent home a weekly progress report, solicited by us, who has given and 89% so far this semester, although all assignments have received 100%, and there are no missing assignments. I might have to review my “new math” to figure that one.

I can only conclude by these lapses that there is no real interest in educating my (or anyone else’s) daughter in this school.

Before critiquing me with… “you should talk to the principle,” we have. We have talked to the teachers, the counselor, the principle, etc. and et al. I graced the Athletic Director with a four page complaint about the conditions on the Cheerleading squad, when my daughter and three other girls resigned. I was given a gracious… “we’re working with the coach.” The program is an abject failure at over 50% attrition since March of last year.

To date we have not seen an iota of progress on any issue that we have brought to the attention of the School District. We have not seen any interest in working to resolve even one minor issue…the complex issues are ignored, as are we. We are the parents that the School Districts ask for…involved parents with sound critiques, but our efforts have largely been ignored and the district proudly plows ahead on its crooked row.

My suggestions to all districts…

Hire leaders as principles, not school administrators…you can have as many curriculum advisors as you want, but districts rarely make good leadership decisions…you don’t need a link here, wait a day, an example will show up in the paper.

Hire business managers as Superintendents…see above.

Start paying attention to the suggestions that are given by the involved parents, and stop paying them lip service. If you don’t, you will soon have a wholesale revolt on your hands that you are not equipped to handle.

Stop crying for more money and make due with the roughly $300,000 (at least in this district) per base classroom that you’re given each year. After paying the teacher and fringe, there should be over $200,000 left to do the job…put it to good use.

Audit your teacher’s classrooms for activity, progress, and efficiency…more can be learned if the teachers simply focused on getting the material across.

Focus on the education of children…the problems within your districts will then become self-evident.

Based on what I read in the news…I don’t hold out hope for this or any other district, or private school. I reject the idea of switching schools, because I get the distinct feeling that I’ll just unearth the festering problems in another district, or I will “upgrade” my problems if we send her to private school. Neither of which I intend to do.

So my daughter, exhausted by the ridiculous social pressures that are unduly prevalent in high school, and the inept and snail-like delivery of course material, is begging for us to home school her.

And so we shall. We’re quitting school.