Monday, March 01, 2004

Another series begins today on parental involvement in schools:



Go read a saga on StatePaper.com today about teacher incompetence in North Platte that resulted in a room full of children who literally missed out on third grade:


This time, the students didn't skip a grade and move forward with their educations -- the TEACHER ''skipped'' a grade and moved them BACK.

Apparently, the teacher had been teaching second grade for a long time and then switched to third grade in a different school. She chose to use worksheets and other curriculum that she had used in the past -- second-grade materials for her new third graders. Results: they scored a dismal 57 percent on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, compared to the 80 percent posted by that grade level in that school the year before.

Parents said there was little in the way of actual instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, but the kids watched an hour of TV a day and did a lot of art work.

Parents are scrambling now, many on their own time and at their own expense, to try to bring their children up to speed and give them the third-grade knowledge and skills they missed.

Parents interviewed said they had hints last year of what was going on, but didn't act on them very forcefully.

Well, in light of the fact that research shows it takes from two to five years for a pupil to overcome the ill effects of a poor teacher, they should have.

They should have gone up the chain of command and rattled it, but good: from the teacher to the principal to the district to the school board to the State Education Department, there are channels for parents to share important information like this and get incompetence stopped. And if it isn't, within a reasonable amount of time, you yank your child and enroll him or her in private school, or homeschool, and send the bill to your school board.

Here's another Nebraska parent; this same thing happened to her daughter several years ago in an Omaha public school classroom. She writes:

''This is exactly what happened to (her child) in third grade with the lovely Mrs. ______, the cute and charming redheaded new teacher. Cursive wasn't taught at all until second semester; she opted to teach keyboarding first semester. I would have welcomed an opportunity to see the third-grade curriculum guides or a syllabus for the year, but was told they didn't exist. Now of course they have 'standards and outcomes' that parents cannot understand. Sigh.''

Along the way, she found out that this weak teacher was the daughter-in-law of a powerful, longtime district employee, so nepotism was involved, too. Likelihood of getting anything changed: zilch.

Solution: they moved their child to private school, are delighted with the quality, and have never looked back.

What does this mother suggest the North Platte parents do?

Get some backbone.

''Somebody should tell them to find a good private school and sue the school board for education malpractice.''

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