If there is one thing that is the overriding discussion topic among teachers this year, it isn't the drug use, the current rise in fights, the budget cuts, or the overwhelming sense of getting screwed by the recession. Nope. The major topic of discussion this year has been parents.
I know, it's probably not the best thing to be calling out parents right now without using an anonymous name. And I'll be the first to say that a large portion of parents are supportive and fantastic. Hell, I consider some of them friends. But the state (and idiotic No Child Left Behind) aren't concerned with much except test scores. And in this regard, parents are killing us. Today in our faculty meeting we found out that many of that "border population", that group of students that didn't quite make it the testing goals last time and could drastically turn our results around, were simply excused from the test by parents that wanted them to do other things during Exit Exams over the last two days. "Doctors appointments", vacations, you name it, the student's parents signed their kids out during one of the most important weeks to do things other than the test. That kind of screws us.
And since I'm directly impacted by Mom's desire to listen to their kids bitch about sitting in a classroom for four hours, I kind of give a shit.
Attendance in our district is a major problem. I have Advanced Placement students that have and will miss weeks...........as in weeks, plural..........and still expect to maintain a high grade. In fact, I'm now running into an interesting dilemma; what do you do about a possible Advanced Placement failing grade that might result in not graduating? Now you might say, "Well, as long as their organized and on top of it, what's the problem?" The problem is that they are not organized and not on top of it. They are on a cruise in Hawaii and haven't a damn clue about anything going on in class. These are called "Short Term Independent Study Contracts", which are now common for those families looking to go to the Bahamas in February, regardless of school being in session. It's also become a great excuse for Hispanics to travel abroad during Christmas Break and to not show up until February, thus killing their grade and our test scores at the same time. The Short Term Independent Study Contract is basically Average Daily Attendance (ADA) support for students that are gone for about 20 school days. Students leave on vacation and are "required" to do work while they are gone. They are then counted towards our ADA, which allows us to be funded. Basically it is giving people an excuse to leave because they know we need them around for the money. Sucks doesn't it.
Most teachers give packet work or ignore the work entirely. I don't do either. I tell students that they must know X, Y, and Z upon return, and that they must follow the work on the classroom blog. They will then be responsible for all the missed quizzes and tests upon return, and all in-class assignments are excused (meaning they don't exist for the student's grade). This irritates parents and students because they love packet work; useless busy work that proves that students know nothing except how to stay up late at night the day before class to rush the work. So the student turns a crap packet that I'm supposed to take seriously and grade? That's assessment?
How about no.
How about hell no.
How about giving me a fucking break and scheduling your trip to the Caribbean for those two weeks in December, that week at Thanksgiving, the week in March, or those three months in the summer.
It's called "Independent Study", meaning your kid is supposed to be studying independently for information they are required to know about the class. And while I'm not an idiot, and I am full aware that the student will not be studying on her way to Maui, realize that I don't care, and if I had my way a student would be dropped after missing five days of class in an AP level course. Advanced Placement is supposed to emulate college. How many college professors do you know that would let you miss five class? How about ten? Fifteen? Yeah, welcome to my world.
I know for a fact that admin is trying to deal with it, and that in the end, we are basically fucked. A parent is going to pull their kid out of school for whatever reason they deem is important and damn the consequences. There is little we can do to stop that. But I just want those testing advocates to realize that this week over twenty students, around the amount needed to pass our goals, were taken right out of Exit Exam testing by a note excused by their parents.
And we were totally powerless to stop it. Wonder if API and AYP take that into account.