The other day I had a guy (we will call him the Paint Guru) give me a quote for painting a bunch of trim work in my new house. He was incredibly friendly and a great conversationalist. We talked about everything from dogs to shoelaces to education all while he examined the trim in my house. As it is with every teacher, it is inevitable that we ended up talking about education. He mentioned to me that his daughter attends a private school after spending 7 years in public schools, but his 3 sons still attend public schools with no intention of moving them to said private school. I found this really odd and continued to ask the Paint Guru questions without trying to intrude or make it seem like I was questioning his choice. However, as a 7th grade Social Studies teacher, I was a little surprised by his decision to move one child but not all four. What could have possibly happened that would make him move one child? After all, he said his daughter was brilliant, getting all A’s, and had wonderful friends.
Finally, I got it out of him. The Paint Guru’s daughter has dyslexia along with an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) to help her achieve in the classroom, which she was doing. In a nutshell, an IEP is supposed to level the playing field of students who have learning disabilities. After talking to him about her IEP and her learning disability, I finally concluded that his daughter would most likely still achieve in the classroom even without her IEP because of parent dedication and support.
So why make the switch? You hear all the time about parents becoming frustrated with public schools. They feel as if their child is not challenged at the level they should be so they push their children into private or charter schools in hope of finding challenging and inspiring curriculum (NEWSFLASH: It’s the teacher not the school or curriculum – another post another day). But why leave 3 of your kids in public schools and move only one? It just doesn’t add up…
Turns out the Paint Guru had a great reason to move only his daughter, which had very little to do with her success but rather the school’s failure. You see the Paint Guru had recently moved from Maryland and education is done differently in every state (grammar fail…maybe). His daughter’s IEP called for a separate setting for individualized teaching accommodations, and what this meant was that his daughter received 3 sessions per week with a reading specialist to help her combat her dyslexia. Obviously, that method was working really well because she was achieving at an incredibly high rate according to her dad.
When they moved to North Carolina, his daughter’s IEP did not change and still demanded by law that she be placed in a separate setting for individualized teaching accommodations. The IEP team failed to mention (or catch) that this would not be feasible in NC. It did not surprise me when the Paint Guru told me that his daughter was placed in a CA class with 12 other students all of which who were achieving far below the level at which she was achieving.
The Paint Guru met with the IEP team and asked that she been given what she received in Maryland and what the IEP technically required. He wanted a reading specialist to work with this daughter 3 times per week and for her not to be placed in a curriculum assistance class for 3 days a week. The school told him no and cited that they could not afford to staff a reading specialist due to budgetary restrictions. CA was basically the best they could do. Then a caring and supportive teacher – who had a master’s in reading education – offered to provide an independent study for 3 days a week during her planning period if the family agreed to place her in CA to work on the skills the teacher would teach her. However, the school would not allow this either citing a legal restriction according to the IEP (details were fuzzy) – but long story short, the school said NO. In the end, the Paint Guru had his daughter moved to a private school just up the street where they agreed to meet the need of this child no matter what the sacrifice.
I know this story comes from a parent and many details may have been left out or skewed. But to his credit, the Paint Guru had no hard feelings towards to public school. He understood why it couldn’t happen. He even admitted he really didn’t think it was the school’s fault as much as it was at the state level. Nonetheless, it got me thinking about our IEP programs, special education resources, and other programs we have in place to help students succeed. I understand times are tough and budgets are tight, but in the end, I like to believe that our schools always have the student at heart. Every decision is made – even if it is a budget cut – with the students best interest at heart. But this story got me thinking…are we cutting the right resources? Are we really meeting the need of every child? Is it easier for public schools to just send kids to private institutions instead of giving them what they need to succeed? A lot of stuff is happening within our district and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, as a teacher – who will be here to the end – I only ask that every decision be made in favor of the student. Every budget cut, every hire, every change should me done with the student in mind. As a school district and public institution, it is our duty to meed the need of every child so that they can succeed to the best of their abilities. Don’t cut the resources that help our students succeed.
The next time that dyslexia (or anything else for that matter) throws us a curveball, it is up to us to open our stance, set our feet, dig in, and keep our eyes on the ball. It’s time to stop fouling off every pitch and prolonging every at bat until it is someone else’s turn to take a crack at it. Keep the student out in front because it should never be the school’s fault why the child has fallen behind in the count. Think about it…