I’ve been battling with this post because I didn’t know where I should really begin with it. I’ve posted about my son’s struggles with school, his social anxieties, and his inabilities to process his emotions (or even sometimes to express them) in a productive manner. I’ve also posted a three part post (found here, here, and here) on how we handled it at that time.
These posts took place circa 1st and 2nd grade. He’s now just barely finished 8th (with summer school beginning later this week), and honestly? I’m more lost now than I was then. A 14 year old definitely presents more challenges when it comes to open discussion, even if we were able to make it happen before.
Throughout elementary school, he remained a primarily B and C student, but he was placed with a reading comprehension teacher that would pull him from his regular classroom a few times a week to assist him. Needless to say, he hated it, and when he finally tested out of them in 5th grade, he was actually looking forward to being able to select an elective class that he would enjoy in middle school.
It turned out that his elementary school recommended him for a reading assistance class there as well (stemming from his lack of wanting to read books throughout the year and take tests on them) and, instead of being able to choose an elective, he was placed into RTI reading (which consisted solely of sitting in the classroom, reading a short story, and taking a test on it. For an entire year). It turned out to be a bigger blow to his confidence, morale, and willingness to try bettering himself almost immediately… because, in his mind, why try to prove yourself if they aren’t even going to recognize it?
His grades dropped in 6th grade, but began seriously plummeting in 7th grade, when he was taken from the RTI reading class and placed into their RTI FB class (functional behavior – meaning that it’s an assisted class for kids they believe are capable of the work, but need assistance with organization and actually completing it because they’re just “choosing not to” or “forget.”). Summer school was recommended after 7th grade for Math and English/Language Arts, but at the tune of $200 per class (and not even receiving the information until after registration – or a time to ask questions – had passed), it didn’t happen. So he moved on to 8th.
Eighth grade brought the same RTI FB class and, primarily because he had fallen behind the previous two years, the grades started out, and stayed, in the tank. He consistently failed the majority of classes (except gym), managing only a couple of D’s across all four quarters.
By this point, we didn’t know what to do or even what could have been done differently to make that better than it was. Did he just not care anymore? Did he want to fail and be held back?
Note: there was a social worker all three years he was in middle school who was frequently pulling him from classes to try to talk to him, but he doesn’t respond well to basically being told he’s failing at anything, even when he can see for himself that he is.
Also worth noting: we tried putting him back on the Focalin in 7th grade (after another Vanderbilt assessment showed ADHD-Inattentive Type as a general consensus among both parents and teachers), thinking maybe it would help. Not only did it not help, but he continuously complained that he didn’t like how it made him feel, so I took him back off of it. I’m not going to force a legally classified controlled substance on my child, physician recommended or otherwise, if he doesn’t want to take it.
So here we are at the end of 8th grade, with letters that were coming in the mail on a regular basis warning of potential academic failure. I was fully prepared for him to be held back, and he had accepted it for the most part as well. Then we discover that, because we qualify for waived school registration fees, the same principle also applied to summer school, so he would be able to go, after all. It was also discovered that even if he failed summer school he would be moving on to high school for one simple reason: he tested out at grade level on state standardized tests.
Yep, you heard it. Classroom material/performance doesn’t influence one bit whether a child passes or fails; they are considered academically ready for the next grade level as long as they can guess their way through a standardized test.
Let that sink in.
You don’t have to do well in primary or middle school as long as you can pass a test that proves to the state that your particular school is NOT failing you academically, even if they are failing you in every other possible way.
At this point, I had already ordered his gown, class shirt with all their names on the back, and graduation tickets in the event of some miracle occurring that would see him graduating into high school with his friends. His name was on the back of the shirt and we were told by the social worker that, as of two weeks prior to graduation, he was being allowed to participate in the ceremony.
Until suddenly, two days prior, we get a call saying that any child failing 2 or more classes is not allowed, that this has always been their policy, and that we should pardon the misinformation because this was that particular social worker’s first year there. I guess that somehow excuses her from having to know school policy. In fact, we’re told, he should never even have been given a gown or tickets in light of his academic standing (which were distributed by homeroom teachers, and honestly, since his homeroom teacher was also the RTI teacher, surely she had to have known, right?).
Ok, fine then… I requested that the gown be refunded. The principal agreed. He takes it back to school the next day – the day before graduation – to hand it in (which I’m sure was a great feeling already), only to be told that they won’t be refunding it because it’s not in the package (he relayed this information via text prior to school starting). Well, no kidding it’s not in the package. It was removed because it needed to not be a wrinkled mess for the ceremony.
By that point, I was fuming. I also knew that that day was graduation pictures, and I just had that feeling that they were going to make him partake in that. That feeling was correct. For whatever reason, he was being pushed on to the next grade and being requested to partake in all of the other graduation activities without being allowed to participate in the ceremony.
I found myself at the school the morning of graduation day, speaking to the principal about all of this, being told he couldn’t participate because he hadn’t technically graduated… because he hadn’t passed summer school yet.
But… it doesn’t even matter because standardized tests, right? So who cares about summer school? Right now it just seems that it’s their version of some warped technicality designed to fuck with kids’ heads.
Because it isn’t boosting their desire to achieve.
And it sure as hell isn’t teaching them anything, either.
There is so much more information I could have included here, such as the hours spent researching how to do his homework in order to help him with it because textbooks seem to be a thing of the past.
Or the number of times YouTube was the only recommendation a math teacher could provide.
Kids are struggling to get through this without references directly in front of them to turn to. And nobody seems to be making the effort at changing it so that they have those references available to them again.
I’m sure they really had only his best interests at heart, though, since after three years they still could never spell his name correctly..
I’d say “You do the math,” but, honestly, I’m afraid that’s not even really a valid metaphor anymore.