I can't get no satisfaction
What went wrong with Public Education?
It is now the eleventh hour and my nerves have been stood on for what seems an eternity, as I wait outside the principals office for a long overdue meeting, thoughts run through my mind, what possible additional questions may arise once we begin our dialogue.
So begins another entry into the journey journal as a parent of a child with a learning disability. Where as we reside in the state of Maryland, certain differences from your own or others you know of hardships in securing the needed resources are state specific.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html and the No Child Left Behind Act and policies http://www.ed.gov/esea and now this new reauthorized policy (whatever that means) http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml are all in place to ensure and safeguard a child's right (as a dependant of a U.S. taxpayer) to a quality and free (Ha Ha) education. There is also a Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individuals_with_Disabilities_Education_Act
Now let me stop there for a moment to say this about the No Child... Act; there are so many forms and procedures that must be documented and followed throughout the child's time spent in the public education system, that the teacher must actually spend time on filling out forms and less time on teaching! This is problem number uno, teachers should teach and not be required to do the job of a statistician!
OK so the government does need an idea, a benchmark,of just how well the monies given to schools are being used and for the purpose intended. I got it, how about we send an official with the U.S. government to the school and have them help teach! There would be no better way for them (the U.S. government) tp have an idea of what is going on in the school than to be there firsthand.
Now, getting back to that principal's office and visit; Everything that had led up to this meeting had required great patience and relentless pursuit for the meeting to take place, I will explain. The last two Individualized Education Program meetings,(IEP) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualized_Education_Program meetings, had been less than fulfilling, not only were the tough questions avoided, they were just not answered, hence the meeting with the principal.
Now I do consider myself patient, but this is a meeting I have found to be more about smoke and mirrors and alot of back patting for administrators. Do they (administrators) really think all parents are that naive or ignorant? As I could not receive the answers I was searching for from the meeting board, I stated to the lead of the meeting my intent to speak with the head of the school and with others sitting on the school board. This was a request and acknowledged by them (administrators) and resulted in absolutely no additional meetings. I then followed up on the matter, receiving a phone call from the principal's secretary and told he/they would get back to me with a meeting time and date. Two weeks and nothing, time again for me to call and this time not the school, but the county school board. Oh, you can believe that when you poke a stick into the hornet's nest they come out then and in force! Not one returned call, but three, the board head of the IEP dept., the secretary and the principal and finally a meeting date and time!
A Crying Shame!
So, on with the meeting of the principal in my daughter's high school. I had only three questions:
1) Can you please tell me if my daughter can be excused from the Maryland HSA's? (A benchmark test for MD. schools to receive Fed. funds)
2) Could you please tell me how I can receive free tutoring for my child in the area of math?
3) Seeing how my child has not passed the HSA and being told of a "Bridge" project that can substitute for her not passing this (state) requirement, could you please explain what it is and what she must do?
To the first question the answer was a no; and this after having been told at the state level that there are exceptions.
To the second answer, a non-answer, a mere runaround and asking of me "Had I went through all the available resources that had been offered to my child through the school already?" ie: staying after school with teachers, to which I replied in the affirmative and expressed dissatisfaction when on three occasions the teacher was not there and I had to take off early from work to pick-up my child. There was no response this statement not even an emotion or an act of empathy.
To make certain that I would perhaps, never return again, the answer to the third question was another non-answer, in fact it was a mere passing of the buck. The reply I received was a "We have an excellent 'Bridge Project' administrator and teacher and they will implement the project as soon as we receive the results of her next testing scores and if she has not passed, they will begin"
I stared at this man appalled, I had come here seeking answers and had gotten nothing except bureaucracy.
I reached back and brought forth a pent up barrage of frustration with this school system and now with him and his rhetoric of failure. No more would I try to be reserved and keep my frustrations from being aired, this had been the last straw!
The fallout of all this has been absolutely nothing has changed. I reached out in frustration to local newspapers, TV, magazines and the like to which I have yet to have any respond back. Has this become such the norm in our society now? Where can you turn after advocating for your child the last twelve years and the last six years being of those that can carry them further and propel them onward to hopefully college?
Well that was last year and the fifth of six long, hard and tedious years in battling this governmental (with emphasis on the mental) monster of public education. I have made many a friend with teachers who are battle weary and gun-shy from fighting the No Child... and with their having to deal with administrators such as the likes of which I have described.
If you are indeed a parent of a child who like my own has an IEP or has been identified as needing special accommodations in the classroom. allow me to pray with you that you and your child will continue to pursue and claim what is rightfully theirs to have, a free and decent public education, but do not be deceived, although you may find many teachers and educators that are willing to help, they are not always able to, It is up to you to be the Advocate for your child or they may be left behind indeed.
You are your child's SuperHero!
Don't Give Up!
Yes, it could be a hard road, just like my struggle and more importantly my daughter's struggle. But to give up or settle for anything less than what the law allows, is to set the stage for their future. The best you can do for them is to stay involved, get together a folder, document everything and stay informed by asking questions, first ask the child and then ask the teacher. If you can and I recommend this, become a volunteer at your child's school.
There are many parent advocate groups available to team up with and one, PTA, even though it has dues may be worth joining just to have feedback and front-line. There is so much more that will most likely play out in your own experiences, but hopefully by sharing in my own and of my child, you have at least a beginning point.
This being my child's senior year in high school, we are moving beyond and looking ahead to college and though the road has been quite bumpy, I am happy to report she has been accepted to a college.
Another bump I had not previously mentioned is the SAT, for any student and let alone a student with a learning disability, the SAT can seem like Goliath. Do yourself and your child a favor, ask the school guidance counselor to apply for extra time to College Board, they are the administrators of this test and though they come off hard (first three times they denied accommodations) you must not take no for an answer.