Monday, October 11, 2004

A Little About Education

Other than healthcare, one issue that keeps me awake at night is K-12 education. This is one area that I took for granted while I was a student in the system and really regret it now. Although I have a lot of great memories from moments that took place within and without the walls of a school while I should have been studying, what are they doing for me now? Absolutely nothing. Notta. Zilch! It took me so long to get caught up. To be honest, I felt like one brilliant dude while I was serving, but then I got out, forced to compete with those who spent there post-K-12 years in college, and realized that I knew a lot about a lot, but not a lot about the basics. Rude awakening, nevertheless. Well, I have worked hard and now feel that I am on a level playing field with my parallels, but I still feel so far behind.

Some time after getting out, I married my wife, a fifth grade public school teacher, and I was confronted with the opportunity to help her to help her students avoid my mistakes. I try to help her as often as I can to make decisions that will push her students a little bit further - and I have found that in order to push them, she has to push herself. A complication that I need to address lightly and lovingly!!!!!!!!

Well, recently I have taken a step into politics and a number of campaigns (presidential and U.S. Senatorial), which has forced me to really look at the issues. FYI: An educated constituent is either a powerful ally or a dreaded foe - depending on what side of the aisle you are on. One of these issues that matches well with my education agenda is No Child Left Behind, or NCLB. To be honest, I have speaking points, but I am not as knowledgeable as I'd like to be. That being said, I am making an effort to become better acquainted with the issue and I am hoping that I can use this venue to share my learnings and learn more from each of you. I am particularly interested in experiences of parents who have noticed a difference, whether good or bad. Let's Roll............


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Angel said...

"with my education agenda is No Child Left Behind, or NCLB."

While in theory, I agree to some extent with the intent of the NCLB policies. However like many government enacted programs, it seems to penalize the good along with the bad.

My daughter is a gifted student, scored a 1530 on the SAT at 12 years of age. Was selected by Duke University last year for their TIP program and has been nominated as a SC JR Scholar this year. She is also in the pre-International Baccalaureate program.

She also has the disadvantage of having a yet to be diagnosed neurological disorder which also effects her heart, or possibly a cardiac disorder which effects her brain. The Dr’s have been trying to figure out for 14 months so far. They have pretty much ruled out her heart, but that is about all we know at this point. She very rarely missed school, but when she has it’s due to seizure like episodes with extreme side effects or medical testing.

Despite these challenges, she still maintains a 3.9 GPA, is taking high school level classes while in middle school and earning credits towards graduation. Sam is a member of her middle school band, 1st chair tenor sax. She is a performing member of the high school’s marching band color guard and also performs in on the winter guard squad. To round her out, she’s recently earned her red belt in karate and is also studying Balintawak.

Because of the NCLB verbiage and South Carolina’s interpretation of it, if she missed more than 6 days of school in a semester, even if she’s making straight A’s in the classes, they will not award her the high school credits she would have earned. She can miss up to 10 total days of school in the entire year, however I as her parent am only allowed to write a note and excuse her for no more than 5 of them. If she has more than 6 absences in the 18 week semester, be they excused or unexcused, then the school is obligated to report me to the Family Court for a truancy investigation.

So far this school year, she missed 1 day because she was having pre-seizure like symptoms and we kept her home. She missed 3 days two weeks ago after having a seizure at school on Monday and being brought home, Tuesday she stayed home recovering. Wednesday, I had to take her in for some lab work then was going to take her to school and she had a seizure in the chair in the lab.

I’ve already received the letter from the school warning me that if she misses 3 more days, which would give her 7 absences that, she would receive no credit for her high school courses. She is in 8th grade and taking English 1, Algebra 2/Trig, Science 1 and History, which are all high school courses. On her most recent report card (the first one for this year) she made a 99%, 100%, 97% and 99% in these classes.

If she misses more than 6 but no more than 10 days in a single semester, than she would be obligated to attend make up school at the cost of $30.00 per absence and make up absence’s #7-10, if she does not, than she will receive a FA (Failed due to Absence) in all her classes on top of loosing her high school credits. Again, her grades in her classes have no bearing on this policy at all. She can continue to make A’s and still be FA’ed.

The staff at the school are very sympathetic to her situation, but every one states, We’re sorry, it is the policy we are required to follow as laid down by the No Child Left Behind legislature and South Carolina Law.

Needless to say, I am not at all fond of the NCLB act or its impact on my family.

Best regards,


At 3:30 AM, Blogger deerdancer22 said...

I am really glad you started this thread. I work with children in Rhode Island, in private practice, that have learning disabilities. I have not heard much about NCLB from the parents. So this will be a good education for me.

I do recall hearing news stories of schools pulling out of NCLB even though it affects their funding, Some of those schools are in very conservative Republican districts. And I do know situations like Angel's daughter are driving people to home schooling in droves.

I am looking forward to following this thread.


At 6:41 AM, Blogger StingerDoc said...

I am glad to see that the topic has interests and you can rest assured that we will keep this dialogue rolling. I have a lot to post on the topic, some of which will be specific to Pennsylvanians, but I will make sure that I stay focused on the federal legislation as it appears to me.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger betsy said...

Thank you for your comments. I am also interested in this topic - my husband is an 8th grade teacher and we just moved to NC from Chicago. The difference in teaching down here is monumental. I look forward to your posts (and all of the contributors, as we read your blogs daily, those who have them). God bless.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger PunkDisneyChick said...

AHEM...this blog is going unused..would yall post something before I have to get the cattle prod out...


At 8:40 PM, Blogger Angel said...

Well, we've had a bit of fun. We were involved in a special project and had to go out of town last weekend to meet a plane coming in with very special cargo on board.

The weekend went lovely, while making our last stop before we were to head home, we were stopped behind a white truck waiting to make a left turn and a woman in a PT Crusier plowed in to the back of us.

The accident itself was not bad, everyone in our car was restrained, but Sammie got jarred around pretty bad, immediatly started gasping for breath and had a seizure while I was on the phone with 911. She was transported to the local regional medical center where she was treated and released.

We ended up staying over another night, it was too late to travel 200 odd miles and she was post ictal and in no shape to travel. She still was not back to normal Tuesday, her left eye was drooping and the pupil slow to react, so she missed school both Mon & Tues.

Well I came home from work tonight and there was a letter in the mail box from the school, on school letterhead.

Dear Parents Of...

In order to enable your student, Sammie, to be a success in school, attendance is extremely important. Listed below is a current summary of Sammie's absences.

Total absences: 5

Students are required by SC Law 59-65-50 to attend school a minimum of 170 days of the 180 school year.

Your student is enrolled in high school credit courses and will fail due to attendance if absences exceed a total of six days (lawful or unlawful) in those classes.

Students who exceed the maximum number of absences will be refrred to Family Court for truancy if under age of 17.

We are anxious to work with you to determien your child's current attendance status.

Please contact school at ###-###-####.

Attendance Office
Middle School

And of course, they included the Middle School Attendance Guidelines with "the maximum number of days that will be recorded as lawful absences with parents notes will be FIVE" highlighted no less!

So, having already spoken to the school's attendance staff, I called the school dist. office. Surely, there MUST be some sort of exemption policy to the above regulations for children with chronic medical conditions. Nope, not in this state.

The woman at the dist. kept wanting to transfer me back to the school. I informed her several times, I had already spoken to the school, I understand the policy and I do not need to have my hand patted while they go over it again.

I explained to her that they are threatening my childs credits for days she has missed through no fault of her own, they are discrimainating against her because she has a medical condition as far as I'm concerned. And that, frankly, I don't give a rat's flying a$$ is it's the law, there must be some sort of medical exemption clause.

There is no way they are taking this kids credits from her because her brain mis-fire's every now and then! She can't control it, the medication is not controlling it and I certainly cannot control it.

The woman at the dist. ended up transfering me to the school, which was a waste of both of our time.

So, we're stuck at this point. If she has another seizure, get's the flu, has a bad cold, whatever; and she's had 4 in the month of Oct, a new record, she will loose her HS Credits in classes she's making A's and B's in. She's carrying a 4.7 gpa at the moment, and she's starting to feel like "Why should I bother working my tail off, since I'm not going to get my credits and they are going to FA me anyways".

Anyways, that was our afternoon of fun. I think I can firmly say now that I HATE NCLB with a passion, because the name itself is a lie, the No Child Left Behind act is about to not only leave my child behind, it's going to run her over, then back up over her again, then put it back and drive and pull forward again leaving the tread marks firmly in her back.

Oh, and the Dr's recommended keeping her life as stress free as possible. Guess they forgot to send the memo to the school dist.!

Sorry to vent my spleen, but I'm beyond fustrated and pissed now. Going to let it all chill to a fine temper until I find my mad. They are saying hell froze over when the Sox won the big one, well I'm going to melt off the ice once I find my mad.



At 3:54 PM, Blogger Pat in NC said...

Angel, I pray that soon they can diagnose and treat Sammie. Are you certain it is NCLB or SC law? Contact your state legislature. Write to the secretary of Education both in SC and DC. Write to your Senator and Rep in congress. Tell Sammie that #1 priority is her health and #2 priority is her education.
Advanced standing proves she is bright and will achieve when the time is right and her health is stable. I understand you are upset and why. Do you convey this to Sammie? I hope not. Tell her of your confidence in her ability to succeed even though it may be less quickly than she had thought. I will have to read the NCLB legislation so I am better informed.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Pat in NC said...

I can tell you from my experience that our school system is not doing its job in far too many instances. I taught in a junior college for many years and the high school graduates were deficient in reading, writing and math skills. Textbooks written at a 9th grade level were too complex for many. Remedial classes in basic math were needed by many. The emotional strain on these highly motivated decent young people was severe due to the likelihood of failure. We admitted HS grads with decent grades and a small number at risk students--it wasn't always the students known to be at risk who had the greatest difficulty.


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