I have always been a proud supporter of public education. I started my teaching career in 1997 and I passionately believed that if we all continued to work together, we could make the world better for our children and teach them tolerance and acceptance. I believed that the best and most innovative learning environment was the result of a great teacher with a devotion to working with children. The best place for children to learn these things was, naturally, in a public school with a diverse environment. Then in 2002, the 107th Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind Act, and everything changed. In 2003, I had my first son, and took some time away from teaching. Going back into the classroom in 2008, I still had that passion. I was visibly enthusiastic about all the ways I could help my students learn. Then my son went into first grade and I started to worry.

Watching him learn the foundation skills, I became concerned that he wasn’t really mastering anything. His reading was improving, but he was a visual learner, so that was a natural progression. Math was harder for him, the word problems were difficult. Even I had to read them twice to decode what they were asking. After No Child Left Behind, curriculum started focusing on higher level thinking skills. We suddenly had new demands on pacing and content handed down to the states from the all-knowing congress. But basic skills, like addition and subtraction facts, were not being mastered. The emphasis on fast pacing is so strong, the fundamentals are only briefly taught. One teacher I worked with told me, “I don’t have time to reteach this concept. We have to move on to the next thing in the curriculum, or I get into trouble.”

In July, we moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. My oldest child is in fourth grade (10 years old), and my youngest is in first grade (seven years old). The schools are overcrowded and the teachers look worn out. Honestly, it’s not new that they look exhausted. It has been happening every year since 2002. But when they have 30 kids to contend with, they are spread even thinner.

The research behind class size is confusing to non-education people. A Google check on “class size” will bring up a page of articles saying that it is an important factor in quality education and other articles saying that it is not a factor at all. Honestly, I don’t know why there is even a debate. Perhaps the politicians and policy makers need to pull their collective heads out of their asses. Maybe data doesn’t support the class reduction argument, but common sense does. If you are a parent and you have six children, your mental and emotional reserves are being taxed more than a parent with two children. I’m not implying that you are a shitty parent if you have six kids. I’m just saying that your mental and emotional energy is further divided. The same is true with a classroom. I’ve had classes of 15 and I’ve had classes of 32. My ability to meet the individual needs of the students was better in a class of 15, even with the inclusion of special education students. School districts are cramming as many kids as they can into classrooms and leaving common sense behind.

Every day, my older son comes home and needs his math lesson retaught. It’s not because he has a bad teacher. The pace of teaching has become a rush to complete all of the criteria that the test will cover. My youngest son tells me that it seems like he just gets started on something, and it is time to go on to something else. I’m alarmed by this because he should be learning things and mastering those skills. I don’t blame the teachers, I don’t even really blame the school district. The entire public school system in this nation has taken a wrong path. We live in the fifth largest school system in the nation, and houses are still going up all around me. I don’t have an extra $20,000 to put my kids in private school. Realistically, what are the chances of getting into a charter school in the fifth largest school district in the country? No high roller in his right mind would bet on those odds. So after supporting public education for 20 years, I am considering the vast array of options in homeschooling. I can’t help but look at the frustration on my kids’ faces and think, “There has to be something better.” We aren’t be the only ones. Many parents I know have decided to utilize the vast resources available for homeschooling.

A friend from another state said to me, “Those can’t be your only options.” I told her, “Welcome to reality.” My kids are lucky enough that we live in a state that is more supportive of homeschooling (thank you, Mormons). I’m fortunate to already have a degree in education. What keeps me up at night is wondering what will happen to the other kids being left behind in this system that has gone off the rails.


9 thoughts on “Mis-Education”

  1. My mother is a retired teacher with 35 years of experience under her belt and we were watching a local news story about protests over the new “Common Core” curriculum and she said, “Everyone needs to get the fuck out of education and leave it to the educators.” Let those who have the education and passion teach. Yes, have standards and goals and markers, but for fuck’s sake, give teachers a chance to do what they were trained to do.

  2. When I was in public school so many of my teachers homeschooled their own children, and they were punished professionally for not staying late and doing extra activities in addition to their normal teaching duties to do it.
    When teachers don’t want their kids in public school because they know they’re being forced by policy to fail everyday, it’s a shitty shitty world.

  3. Is it so easy to pull your kid from school and start home-schooling? Because in the NL there’s this ‘A kid has to be in school from age X through Z’ and I only think travel and extraordinary circumstances allow teaching outside of a school building.

    This is really sad to read though. Education is the most important thing and we’re cutting on it.

    1. Freckle,
      Most states require you to file forms and submit some kind of plan regarding what you are working on. Some states make the process easier than others.

      When my kids come home telling me that they hate school in first grade, that is an extraordinary circumstance. Kids should love school and love learning. They should not feel like they don’t have time to do their work and like their teacher doesn’t have time to help them.

  4. It’s just as bad in England. Testing, testing, testing, overwhelmed teachers, huge classes… Now they’re thinking of testing 4-year-olds within the first few weeks of them entering school (which is a whole other rant topic. 4! YEAR! OLDS!), because testing them at 7 means “teachers have no incentive to focus on weak students for the first three years”. Because being a flipping teacher is no incentive??? And again, maybe that is due to huge class sizes?
    My daughter was completely overwhelmed with the workload and the long hours for the first few months. It made me cry to see her thatstressed. She’s now settled in and loves her homework, but we’re just really lucky that way. I know of many parents who are considering homeschooling because of the pressure.

  5. If you want a good idea of what a good education should look like, you can’t go by what the politicians say but by where they send their kids. If class size doesn’t matter, why do you send your kid to a school with such a low student to teacher ratio? If testing is so great, why don’t your kids spend half the year in test prep? Why do you send your child to a school that emphasizes music, art, languages, a beautiful library, gorgeous grounds, state of the art facilities, an environment designed to nurture a child’s individuality and help them achieve their hopes and dreams and then say that none of those things are part of a quality education for other peoples children? Why don’t you send your child to a school where half the staff was replaced with people with 5 weeks of training? How about to a building where “maintenance” consists of painting over the mold every few years?

    /end rant

  6. When I was subbing, I was shocked to find out that all students spent two hours a week in the computer lab working on the fundamentals. (Mostly math and english, some science, etc.) This not only took away from instructional time, it’s an obvious pilot program. If all of the fundamentals can be taught by computer, with individualized learning plans, then we don’t need teachers at all. We just need a computer lab babysitter. I know in Indiana, online learning has become a huge deal from K-12. It’s technically still public instruction, but you do it from home. Public homeschooling, as it were. Again, a pilot program. If I were a young teacher, I’d be worried about my job in 15 years.

    Another note:

    My ability to meet the individual needs of the students was better in a class of 15, even with the inclusion of special education students.”

    And with mainstreaming, special needs students are being mainstreamed for full days. So their educational needs aren’t being met, and I know that I (and others) spent a lot of time trying to meet those emotional and educational needs to the neglect of the 30 odd other students in the class.

  7. I have a 6-month old, and this whole topic scares me. Obviously, we are quite a while from his entering school, but if the situation has gotten this bad in 10 years, how much worse will it get in 5 more? I had a great public school education in 2 different states, and I would hope that every child in the US would have the same opportunities…. clearly not.

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