It’s easy to get caught up in the school re-opening battle, and to forget that there are other issues in the school district, so I asked parents, via Facebook, about what their other concerns are. Some of them responded that they had been entirely satisfied with their District 214 experience up until they closed schools, or, more specifically, failed to reopen in the fall. But, with due acknowledgement that this is a self-selected group, here are some of the general themes of other concerns parents raised:
Inequities between schools. Most notably, some schools have pools, others don’t; this feels inequitable to parents even if there was some underlying rationale. But other than the built environment, there are issues in some schools offering programs or classes that others lack (e.g., foreign languages, “pathways” courses), with no option for parents other than the not-really-an-option offer that a parent can drive a student back and forth daily.
Students pressured into AP/dual credit classes, One parent reported that her son has high test scores but low grades so the counselor pressured him into taking AP classes and her son acceded to the pressure rather than pushing back. Parents believe counselors do this because of a directive to boost AP enrollment.
Watered-down mid-level classes. Because of the push to AP/Honors, parents report that the classes which are labelled as “college prep” are not challenging enough. Separately, when I assembled my Q1 grades analysis, I saw that some schools, for some subjects, had eliminated the lower-level version of classes, so that the nominally “college prep but not Honors” classes had to meet the needs of all students; at the time, a parent reported that her son was promised additional support when this happened but it was never provided. In English, book reading is accomplished at a slow pace, and paper-writing is minimal. One parent reported that a senior math class was not even accepted by a student his son applied to as being of sufficient rigor to meet the math requirement.
Generally speaking, a lack of support for students with IEPs, and a failure to treat students as individuals. Either students are left to sink-or-swim in “regular” classes, or they are not teaching them to their abilities outside of these classes. Specific to the pandemic, case managers were not responsive — “like she fell off the planet.” Parents also report inconsistencies in policies and actions across the schools in this respect.
A lack of attention to the specialized schools, as if they are not part of the district.
Career pathways courses pushed too much and too early. Students are pushed to take a pathway sequence rather than being able to try new things. Students could benefit from semester-long options rather than four-year sequences. (We saw that with the “music production” presentation at the November school board meeting, as a course which could have been a means of introducing a new hobby/skill/avocation to students was pitched instead as a “pathway.”)
Concern that classrooms are being politicized. A parent report that even in a science class, of all places, students felt they were being made to feel ashamed to be white through exercises on “white privilege.” Discussions on the topic are not free and open but instead students are pressured to voice only “approved” opinions. Parents fear attempts at indoctrination via Critical Race Theory, not only with respect to race, but even with respect to whether students’ religious beliefs will be respected or denigrated.
Can a school board member remedy these issues? Is there another side to the story? My concern, in reviewing the issues parents have raised, is that at the moment, there appears to be no effort taken by the school board to exercise oversight with respect to any of these concerns, instead enabling the school district to make decisions as it chooses regardless of how it impacts students.