Saturday, August 16, 2014

On the Right Track

So my post today is all about another confirmation I've received that tells me we're on the right track with our decision to homeschool. I'm so thankful to God for giving me this added sense of peace and I'm going to write about it here -- since this IS my blog and all -- but I will warn you that it may sound a bit like an "anti-Public School" rant. That's not intentional. Obviously public school was the right choice for LO's Kindergarten and 1st Grade years. And obviously it's the right choice for millions of families across the country. Please know that in no way do I want to come across as saying homeschooling is the right decision for every family, because I know it isn't -- it just happens to be the right one for us: for now. We may very well be back in the public school system next year, as I've only committed to this homeschooling adventure for ONE YEAR and will await God's direction once we prepare and make decisions for next year. So public school isn't public enemy #1 -- but it just may sound that way (unintentionally) in my rant below.

A few weeks ago, I requested LO's cumulative file from the elementary school she attended (you can read a bit about that at the bottom of this post). Upon reviewing the information I was provided, I realized they didn't include ANY tests, scores or assessments at all from 1st Grade -- only a report card. I called the school office, and they weren't able to provide me with any information, and suggested I speak with her 1st Grade teacher. I left her a message and awaited her response.

Her teacher emailed me to tell me that the 1st grade file usually contains a sheet that indicates her beginning and ending point for the Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment used by the school, as well as three writing samples (none of which we received). However, her beginning and ending reading assessment score was the same because they only test to level M in 1st grade and that was where she started 1st grade. And apparently her writing samples were recycled at the end of the year for some reason rather than placed in her file.

((sigh))

A few deep breaths later, after reading and rereading the email several times, I began to get upset. Why were her writing samples recycled (thrown out) rather than included in her file? Why couldn't they give her the next grade reading assessment at the beginning of the year once they realized her starting point was at the highest level of test offered? How on earth could they possibly gauge her improvement in reading and comprehension if they didn't have a valid benchmark in place at the beginning of the year? In my mind, if her records show she started at level M and finished at level M, I would feel that indicates she didn't learn, grow or improve in any way over the course of the school year.

I inquired with a teacher friend of mine who works for the same school district (but not at LO's school) about this, and she mentioned how teachers have several students to benchmark with only a certain period of time in which to do so, and they are instructed to stop at the end of the next grade level up. This makes sense. But apparently it is possible for a parent to ask the teacher or the school's instructional coach to retest her at a higher level at another time during the year.

My issue with this?
  1. We were never notified of the fact that LO took this assessment.
  2. We were never told that she started the year testing at the maximum level.
  3. No one communicated to us that we had the option to have her tested again at a higher level so as to create an accurate baseline at the start of the year.
  4. I was continually inquiring with her teacher concerning how she would ensure LO would receive advanced reading opportunities to keep her challenged throughout the year.
How is this okay??? How is it that so much attention these days is put on children who are lacking in a certain skill or those who are considered "behind" and yet place no attention on the children who are advanced and need to be challenged throughout the year? Ugh. I know there are a zillion things that go into making a public school work, so how should I possibly expect that my child will receive the kind of individualized attention I want her to have? It's just not possible in that environment when there are so many children, at so many different levels of development, only one teacher, and the prioritized task of achieving the best test scores at stake for these schools? I just don't feel like it's about the students anymore -- it's about making sure the school makes the grade they need and receives the funding they want and the state has the overall scores it needs. That's solely my opinion, of course.

But regardless, this was just one more disappointing thing that proved to me we are doing the right thing. My kids deserve more than what a public school is willing and able to offer them. Did you realize a public school student spends over 15,000 hours in school from Kindergarten through 12th grade? I can't imagine empowering a public school with that kind responsibility over my child. At least not right now. Of course this is subject to change at the Lord's leading, but for now, I'm following the path He has set in front of me for my family.

My apologies to those who may read this as an anti-Public School rant. It honestly wasn't intentional. It's just me telling our story and giving praise to the Lord for continuing to settle my anxious heart as I head into a very new chapter in my family's life next week.