Tuesday, May 15, 2007

End of the School Year Blues.....

May I formally say that I am, ironically, a supporter of year-round schooling. I can, as a mother, appreciate how beneficial it would be to our children to have a shorter summer break, and a school term that ran longer than the normal 9 months with a 3 month summer vacation.

On Friday night, when DH came home he checked the mail. In the mail was one of those letters addressed to the parents of.... The sort that carries report cards, or official school letters. I opened it expecting to find the DD's results from the standardized tests taken in April. It wasn't. It was the result of a test called the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices, administered by the "Extended Learning Specialist" at DD's school. The letter starts out with defining the test: The SPM consists of 60 items arranged in 5 sets of 12 items each. Each item contains a figure with a missing piece, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Below the figure are alternative pieces to complete the figure, only one of which is correct. Each set involves a different "theme" for optaining the missing piece, and within a set the items are roughly arranged in increasing order of difficulty. The SPM measures visual perceptual skills and the ability to form perpetual relationships. It measures a student's ability to reason by analogy, which helps sudents to understand new material more readily. It also measures a student's ability to make sense out of complex data. The test was designed to be independent of language, culture, or formal school experience. It does not measure math skills, though it correlates with that ability. It also does not measure reading skills or your child's verbal ability.

IE: it's an IQ test of sorts.

The total score was possible out of 60. DD achieved 16 correct out of 60. Which put her in the 10th percentile, well below the "average" which ranged from 16% to 84%.

Quite honestly, I feel as though I've been told by the school "Your child's an idiot, and with one week left in the school year, there's not much you can do about it." I know that this is probably not how they intended it. But I hid this letter from DD, not even letting her know that it'd come, because I didn't want to discourage her about her own abilities. And then, yesterday, I called and talked to the E.L.S. for the school, and found out that the E.L. Program is what we used to call the "G.T. Program" (Gifted & Talented). He said that this test was origionally given back in Oct. (OCTOBER!!!!! I could have had some knowledge of this all winter!!!) but that when DD didn't test INTO the program, he disregarded the results (along with the results of all the other children who did not test into the program). Then last week he was informed that the parents of all the students who took this test STILL needed to recieve the results of this test, though I was never even aware she TOOK this test in the first place.

After finding out what this test was about, I called the office to ask about setting up a conference between myself, my daughter's teacher, and the principal to discuss DD's progress for the year. Even though this test was taken back in Oct. and even though it doesn't track her progress in the basics throughout the year, it's reminded me that with my child I must be ever-attentive as to her progress. I was reminded, with one week left in the school year, that it may not be in DD's best interest to pass her on to 4th grade next fall. And I hate to do that to her, for social reasons. But I would also hate to pass her on to 4th grade, knowing that she doesn't have the skills needed to keep her head above water, much less succeed.

And wouldn't you know it, the teacher mentioned this test to DD, and the fact that I was wanting to come in to discuss DD's readiness for 4th grade. And DH clarified that for her when he picked her up from Daycare with the statement that I would be discussing with the principal & teacher the possibility of holding her back. So I barely made it in the front door last night, after work, before I was subjected to yelling & crying over how mean I am to consider holding her back. (The yelling and crying from DD. DH understands though he also finds it almost heart-breaking.)

And of course, the teacher was planning on taking today (Tuesday) off, so I can't talk to her about it today. And tomorrow (Wed.) and Thursday I'll be in Jury Duty for the part of the day when the teacher would be at the school, so I won't be able to conference with her then. Friday, the last day of school, will be the next time I'm able to speak with the teacher & principal about this. At this stage in the game we should already be almost celebrating DD's passing onto 4th. Instead, because I haven't been as attentive as I realize I should have been, and because the school is content with the status quo, we're still struggling to decide if this is even the right thing for DD.

And I know that I'm going to face opposition from the teacher and probably from the principal. Mainly because this damned "No Child Left Behind" program has put them into a position of passing children that they KNOW aren't ready to be passed, or risk losing funding for the school & their teaching positions. I don't mean to sound like I'm blaming DD's lack of academic skills on the teachers individually, as I know they've done the best with what they've got. But they've also been consistently extremely reluctant to consider holding a child back, even if it's in the best interest of that child to have another year to catch up, before being forced to drop even further behind (in academic skills, though not in grade level) the rest of her class. I really do think it would benefit DD to spend another year in 3rd grade, reiterating with herself all that she's learned in one year, and solidifying the concepts that she doesn't have down yet. Hopefully by the end of that second go-round in 3rd grade, she'd be at the top of her class, having had sufficient time to grasp all the concepts before moving on to 4th.

So, I'm really kind of bummed these last few days, considering doing this to my daughter. I recognize that my primary job in life is not to make sure that she's an imbicilic social butterfly, but instead to make sure that she IS a mature, strong woman with a solid educational foundation underneath her upon which to build her future.

She seems to understand, sometimes, that this would probably be best for her. She seems to understand that she can't be a veterinarian without making decent marks in school so that she can get whatever college education is required for a veterinarian practice. And even on the days when she insists that all she wants to do is play hockey for the rest of her life (and one doesn't need to know how to read, write and do math to play hockey! *wry smile*), she WILL need to know how to read & write in order to read hockey contracts & sign autographs, and basic math skills will go into making sure she's getting paid enough to play. *big wink*

So, now all I've got to do is meet with the teacher & the principal & go over her scores from beginning of the year to now. I'm not 100% decided on if we'll hold her back, but I'm at the point where I really do think it'd benefit her more than it'd hurt her, in the long run. And I've been assured by other parents & past teachers that if she's not got a good foundation in 3rd grade, then she'll likely drown in 4th grade. That is the point where the basics of reading, writing, and math are used as a foundation upon which further academic knowledge is built & solidified. And if that foundation is so weak as to be unusable, then she'll never catch up. And we're already aware of how reluctant the teachers are to hold a child back, for fear of looking bad themselves. I don't see it as a failure on the teacher's part, and I don't necessarily see it as a failure on the student's part. In this case, as in some others, I see it as a legitimate validation that not all children are ready for advancement at the same time. There are some that pick things up more quickly (those generally wind up in the E.L. program) and there are those that pick things up more slowly. And rather than putting those slower-to-learn children in special ed. WHY not hold them back???? To get into the Special Ed. program, a child must be IN their "age grade" but be 2 years behind in their skills. And then they must be passed on to the consecutive grades with their age-mates, regardless of their skill levels, simply because they ARE in the Special Ed. program. I don't see that as a solution, I see that as a hinderance. You're still saying that the kid's got to be in the same class, but they just don't have to learn as much. Why not pull the child back a bit & let them get their foundation solidified before letting them build ever higher????

Anyway..... I know this has been another long, poorly written post. Thanks to all my friends who've read my meandering & ranting. Even if I don't write clearly sometimes, it really helps to solidify things in MY mind, and it helps to know that I've got friends out there in cyberspace who'll support me & back me up, even though most of you don't know me in person. It's great to have that support, esp. when one must go about being a "mean mommy" and flouting the conventions in the effort to do what is truly right for one's child.

Have a Blessed Day!


Connie Peterson said...

We held Joy back in second grade and look where she is now! Not a college graduate (she chose beauty school) but teacher of two lovely children and a lovely mother.

I think your school was wrong not to notify you sooner of the test scores (and the test itself!) but hold to your guns ... make that stupid 'no child behind' junk just what it is ... junk and keep her in 3rd grade if need be. You are right - she needs good grades and good grounding in math and science if she is going to be a Vet ... I know - I became a teacher because I did not have the grounding and skills in math and sciend and I WAS going to be a vet!!!


Anonymous said...

I was held back in grade 9 and now I am the proud teacher of a grade 9 student! The extra year help me with everything and I never felt that I was missing being with my friends(even though they were in high school and I wasn't).

DD sounds like she understands the situation and of course she'll be upset but once she starts school again in the fall, everything will be okay. Ask her if she becomes a vet, can I come visit and be her "assistant"?????

Brightest blessings and hang in there, you'll do the right thing


Gina said...


You sound like a most responisible parent (not the "not as attentive as I should have been" type). I agree that the school was wrong in not even telling you about the tests or sharing the results until now. i can't understand why public (or private) schools can't provide some sort of list of tests as well as the cirriculum at the beginning of a term. i would want to know what my child is learning.

As far as being held back, I think it would benefit her in many ways. It's crazy that we (Americans) expect every child to fit some sort of mold. I plan to hold either one of my boys back if I think it is necessary. Children mature at so many different levels. No Child Left Behind is all about the money, not the child (you're right, IMHO).

For these reasons (and others) I would love to homeschool/unschool, but that is not realistic for us right now. Your experience with DD will help me in a few years, i'm sure. thanks for sharing.

I have been really "spacy" today so if my rambling comment is cloudy, I'm sorry! :-)

Gina said...

geez, ignore my typos-holding the baby and it's hard to type.

Michelle said...

:-( I'm sorry you're going through all of this. I should give you a call sometime and chat. Perhaps this weekend?

Bardouble29 said...

I don't know what to do except to give you lots 'o cyber hugs...I went through some very similair stuff with my step kids...there are no easy answers or fixes.

You and your family are in my heart.

Kris said...

Hey Sweetie...
I just read your blog tonight (after I tried to call)... how frustrating! So... is summer school an option? Is tutoring an option? (I'll support your decision either way... whether you have her held back or not, you know that... I'm just trying to look at options). How about calling FCSA and ask them if they have a program she could fit into? She might get more individualized attention there.

Okay... gotta sign off!
Love ya!
- Mom

Kati said...

Thanks for all the support. It's really good to see that there are others who've had the same (and similar) experiences and get the feedback & support from y'all.

Mom, as far as tutoring, we don't have the money. No ifs, ands, or buts, there just isn't the money to put her in a tutoring program such as sylvan learning center. Summer school not only doesn't seem to be available without considerably more work than I've got time for (ie, setting it up in the next week's time) with my currently busy schedual, but I don't even know where to begin to look. And, I don't know that it would give her enough time. Also the summer school experience I have requires either a motivated student (which DD is NOT) or a parent with the time & energy to do a summer's worth of what is essentially homeschooling (which I & DH don't).

I really think holding her back for one year will be the best option academically, as it will give her a full academic year to review everything she's learned up to this point, and hopefully that will solidify the concepts & such in her mind to such a point that when she goes into 4th in another year, she'll be solidly ready to tackle new concepts. Perhaps she'll even be chomping at the bit to learn more & move ahead, if we give her a year to solidify what she knows. *shrug* Or, we could frustrate her horribly and ruin her appreciation for school altogether. I don't know for sure. But, at this stage, I think repeating 3rd grade is probably the best option.

The daycare is going to continue to have DD (as well as their other students) review their prior school-year's lessons AT daycare, during the summer. Maybe that will be sufficent. The schools DO do a series of screening tests at the beginning and end of each school year, and maybe with the summer's constant review during day-care, she will have solidified the ideas & concepts enough TO pass on in the fall. That is something I'm going to discuss with the teacher (and hopefully the principal) today. For now, though, I really think it would be prudent to hold her back. It seems that it would be easier on all of us (DD, myself & Dh, the school) if we hold her back now, and maybe let her test INTO 4th grade in the fall, rather than passing her on, and then trying to pull her back in the fall if she hasn't managed to solidify her base knowledge.

*shrug* I really wish I had a really good, firm answer on this one. But, kinda taking things as they come at this point, and doing the best that I can, and hoping & praying I don't wind up with DD hating me for the rest of my (or her) life for my decisions. But, I guess that's what being a mom really comes down to, huh???? ;)

Love ya!

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I know you are a good parent and will do what is best.

Signal is working for now, missed seeing you.

Moonbeam said...

Your daughters struggles with school is not a reflection on you as a parent but on the teachers as educators. They will argue about keeping her back because that makes them look like a failure. Instead, they are trying to bounce that onto you. Stay strong, your daughter's education is more important than their reputations, demand what you know to be best for your daughter, that is your right as the concerned parent that you are.
Know that your choice is supported by other mothers because we know what is important is the child!!!