Have you had a child get behind in school and tried to get them help? And you were just shot down? Have you ever dealt with a bullying problem, and the school refused to help? Your child is not understanding the work, but they will not intervene until they are two years behind? Maybe, it is the two to three hours of homework each night while class time is spent dealing with behavior issues. Possibly they are teaching to the standardized test and not the curriculum and special projects. Perhaps, you have a special needs child and they are lost in the wind there. Maybe you are dealing with an insufficient teacher that the administration loves but not anyone else?
There seems to be a systemic problem in some schools, even at the district levels refusing to help our children. Why is that?
Maybe, you are lucky and see none of this where you are, fantastic. But, I am sure you have friends dealing with this. Why? Sometimes, it is a lack of funding and other times it is a lack of purpose. Mostly, it is a lack of effective implementation.
As a parent with a special needs child, I have been doing all-out battle with our school district, and for a couple years at a private school too. They do have some great teachers, but shockingly, there is no plan or even a mindset to offer any help to mine or any other child who is not in the mainstream. I am not in a small-town school, in fact, we live in one of the biggest districts there is. It is massive. It is like a factory where the management occupies over half of the positions and the workers, as in teachers, occupy less than half. Management and various bosses are seemingly doing nothing but micromanaging, while the workers are overwhelmed and do not have the resources, training and effective oversight to do their job well.
Yet, the primary and only point people who are geared to do the actual work of teaching are the teachers. And in the state I am in, the ratio is 32-1, about one teacher for every thirty-two plus kids. My son’s previous class was one to thirty-five. The two schools he was previously enrolled with have no aids, available IEP’s, a 504 plan, or Special Ed programs. Their "tutoring" was done by the older kids and proved to be totally ineffective. What is offered is called centralizing services, which is mainstreaming all students into the same classes for budgeting reasons, while research shows that does not work. The teachers are overwhelmed and can’t possibly help our children, no matter how good they are. They just can’t do it all.
And it gets worse. The vast majority of the funding is massively mismanaged going to way too many overpriced administers and pointless projects that do nothing or offer any real educational value to help our students.
They just push reports to one another, as I found out. When there is a bullying issue that affects their numbers and reputation, they bury it. So, there is seemingly no problem. When there is a special needs student they see a money pit. There are no resources for if a child gets behind, thus, they ignore the problem. They may even let you know, you are not welcome there. They may claim that they do not have the facilities or funding to accommodate your child and that you may be better off elsewhere. The principle of the school my son previously attended, who I considered a friend and even coached her son in soccer, told me they can’t accommodate him. This was coming from a public school! Now, my son just needed some extra help, not expensive services. This administrator, like so many, was determined to get rid as many students that would lower the school test scores as possible. That principle’s reward for the effort? A good school rating. It is not a good school! Five years later, the local newspaper reported that this school was closing.
Why such a reaction? From their perspective, there are some good reasons why they will not help students.
It can cost $20,000 to over $60,000 a year in educational expenses. This covers specialists, assessments and speech therapy, and even covers medical expenses for any specialized services. They can accommodate some, but not all in the budgets the districts allocate to each school. The costs of these services in California on average is $10,467 per student. However, the schools still must provide the services when needed. So, they will drag their feet, take months to assess, lose paperwork, will not call you back or monitor the situation. Hoping you will just go away. Sometimes, this has been going on for years, like in our case. It reached the point to where I had to get an attorney to fight them, which was ridiculous. In the process of my fight, I got a look under the murky hood of dysfunction and a total disregard of what education is all about.
Here is what you as a parent can do:
- Leave, find the exit and walk as fast as you can out of the school and district. I wish I did this a lot sooner.
- Consider a Charter School. Look for a good alternative school. Private is not affordable and many are not as good as a Charter School. The private school, we were in and so many others will not put any effort to help a student with special needs. Their teachers were not even credentialed or qualified. Consider this, a Charter School gets less funding, as it comes from the district they are “chartered to,” and they have more expenses like building rents, and still manage to have an average of a 15 to 1 student to teacher ratio. Method Schools has an 8 to 1. They are more teacher focused not administer driven. They have qualified credentialed teachers who are not overwhelmed and frustrated or in burned out by oversized classes. They have a more of a commitment to handle student needs better. And a better handle on what education is supposed to be.
- Move. Find a school district that is good and better equipped to help your child in their educational journey.
- Homeschool. You can’t? There are many that have their credentialed teachers and curriculum do the teaching and the parent coaches, like Method Schools.
- You like to fight? Then, hire a lawyer. There are ones who specialize in this field and will cut the time of months to years dealing with it this to a few days. However, the school may still refuse to comply and site no funding, which happened in our case.
- Want to stay no matter what? Make it better yourself. Join the PTA, get to know the teacher, volunteer and be their advocate and help them out.
What can a school do?
- What it is supposed to do, teach students first, help them, inspire them, awaken the joy and wonder and prepare them for life. Give them the help they need!
- What not to do? Playing political games and use our children as pawns and conduct meaningless social science experiments.
- Do not warehouse them and squash the potential just to collect a paycheck.
I do not want to sound overly harsh, but that is the reality of many school districts and the experiences of many parents and teachers I have talked to. Not all schools are like this and not most public charter schools, which are a great alternative. In fact, there would be no need for charter or private schools or even homeschooling if the public schools are doing their jobs right. But, since they seem to refuse to, then the American spirit will come up with a plan with alternatives.
For a school that has a curriculum that is intuitive with great trained and considerate teachers, and has helped my son and can help you and your child’s success, look here: methodschools.org
Stats from: http://www.governing.com/gov-data/education-data/state-education-spending-per-pupil-data.html and http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/faqs/ (*$10,467 per student in 2015)
Dr. Richard Krejcir is an Author, Researcher and the Director of a nonprofit that does educational training in third-world countries. He is also a Homeschool Coordinator at Method Schools and an instructor in a STEM program and a father of a son with autism.