Friday, March 30, 2007

Problems at my local middle school

Last night, I went out to dinner with a group of ladies from church. Great restaurant, but that's another story.

Soon, the dinner conversation came around to a problem at a local middle school. Apparently, a teacher who had previously taught another subject was assigned to teach 8th grade algebra. He had a reputation for being a bit of an oddball, but nothing outrageous.

Early in the school year, parents began to get inklings of a problem. It wasn't until the first report card that the problems became more obvious. Every student was assigned the grade for the student next to them on the list. To fix the problem, every student was then given an A on their amended report card. While a grade mix-up is not what you call a crisis, the "A" on the report card distracted many parents from the real problem. It was half way through the year, and the class had covered very little algebra. I don't know what was going on in the class room, but it wasn't Algebra I.

The school realized the error and put a new teacher in the class room who actually had math training. Unfortunately, the new teach did not have class room management skills. The new teacher limped along for some weeks before the school and the parents realized that they still had a problem.

The school responded by placing teaching assistants in the class room and providing tutors after school. One of the "insiders" made the comment that the school is hoping to placate the parents to avoid a lawsuit. Standardized testing starts in a few weeks and the school is afraid what the results will show.

At this point, most of the parents realized they had a big problem. It is almost the end of the school year, and the 8th graders in this class have missed an entire year of algebra. These students will be starting high school next year unprepared for the course work. Many parents are worried about how this will effect their child's GPA or options for honors classes. (This is one of those times were I'm glad not to have the pressure of a high school. I just have to worry about what my child knows, not how it looks on a transcript.)

Some parents got together and began an algebra club. They've hired a private tutor who also teaches Freshman algebra at the local high school. As a side benefit, my oldest daughter has been invited to join them. She is 12 and studying from the Saxon 1/2 Algebra book. Most of the kids in the club she knows from soccer or other activities, so I think it will be fun for her. I curious to see how much my daughter understands in comparison to the 8th graders from the middle school.

I appreciate how my friends keep me informed on the latest goings on at my local schools even though I'm an "outsider." One of the reasons our homeschool works so well is because of the inside information. I'm kept informed of resources like band camp and Algebra Club. I'm also reminded of the benefits of homeschooling.

The saga continues in At my local high school.

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J.D. Williams said...

At least the parents see a problem and are involved in trying to fix it. We haven't had a science teacher in my grade level since December, just a bunch of random substitutes. We were told not to even put science grades on their last report cards. Someone else did them and 50% my gifted students were failing (then some of them were crying because they didn't know why they were failing. Can't blame them for that). I have heard one parent complaint out of 100 students. I guess they're use to it because they lost a 5th grade teacher halfway through the year last year. The complaint came from a parent whose child was not at our school last year. I just don't get it and I probably never will.

Janine Cate said...

I must say this is a good group of parents. Very involved. JD, what you describe is very sad.