Letter from a teacher
A fifth grade teacher writes:
About seven years ago our district required that we call in every parent whose child was “at risk” and warn them that lack of improvement would lead to retention. Parents were greatly concerned and we saw much more involvement and concern but at the end of the year, no child was retained, despite many who did not show much growth.
The following year we were required to meet with parents again. We spent hours and hours calculating “at risk” scores and data, hours meeting with the families, and again, no retentions.
The third year we were told to continue with the meetings and we revolted. We were then told to say that students would possibly be retained by the 6th grade. This language later became “sometime in the future.”
Most teachers stopped making retention threats. Teachers who did retain students “were called in for a meeting by our assistant superintendent and reamed for not doing enough for their students.”
When parents complain — usually about a child’s suspension for violence — the superintendent doesn’t back up teachers and principals, the teacher writes. There’s little tolerance for meaningful punishments.
. . . Students are routinely “benched” (miss a recess) for violent language, punching other children, destroying property and threatening. Our (new and young) principal actually told our school bully that if he came in her office a FOURTH time for violence, he would have an in-school suspension for a day. OH NO! She felt she was being firm. We (teachers) felt she gave him permission to be violent three times.
Not surprisingly, there’s much more fighting at the school. Four boys beat up another boy, bruising him badly.
The principal met with all of the boys and suggested that if they worked out their problems and became friends again, she wouldn’t call the parents (one of whom would immediately go to the superintendent). So, the following Monday the same boy (chief perpetrator) “accidentally” socked another boy leaving bruises that lasted for several days. He sat in (the principal’s) office the next day. We teachers think that he implicitly heard the message that beating someone up has no consequences, so why not try it again.
If there are no consequences for poor schoolwork or bad behavior, the kids are going to figure it out. They’re not stupid.