Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bureacrat-ese, H.S. Principal Style

Last night our local public high school tried something different. Instead of mailing the report cards or sending them home with the students, they had a "Pick Up Night." The night included a chance to ask questions of the Principal and the staff about our concerns.

Out of 1900 students, there were maybe 100 families.

Most of the questions were about safety issues: gangs, fights, weapons found on school. We were reassured that 80% of the students were well-behaved, respected their teachers and other adult staff members, went to class, and did their work. 10-15% were students who got in trouble once or twice for relatively minor things. When these students were brought into the office, generally they were respectful and compliant. And after a phone call home, most of these kids did not get into trouble again.

The remaining 5% of the students are the hard core incorrigibles. They are defiant. They are disruptive. They threaten and they bully other students, the faculty, and the staff. So why are they still on campus?

According to the Principal, it's all because of No Child Left Behind.

All children have to be educated, whether they want to be or not. And the school district wants them in school--they need the money and the paperwork they are now required to do when a student is expelled is onerous. Our school district simply does not have a viable option, like a special school or special campus, for these students.

In practical terms, this means the limited resources the High School does have are disproportionately spent on this 5%. Instead of math and science teachers, we have a special-duty police officer. Instead of academic counselors, we have psychological counselors. Instead of Latin, we have classes in Anger Management (for the students).

"Hurt children hurt others," was a line used by one of the parent volunteers who is on the Safety Committee. "We have to find out why these children are hurting and help heal them."

Meanwhile, these hurt children are hurting my kid--if not physically, then certainly by using up resources: money, materiel, staff time. Kids who need help in the classroom, who are interested in learning, especially good kids who need extra help from the teacher, don't receive it because of the 5% who are disrupting the class.

Unfortunately, the Principal, the staff, the PTSA President were preaching to the choir. I would be willing to bet that the children of the parents who bothered to come out on a rainy night are not in that 5%.

I am not hopeful of a solution...