red flag?

Mar. 19th, 2012 06:45 pm
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[personal profile] flea
As you may remember, I've never felt super-great about the kids' current school. It's rated excellent, they have a lot of good enrichment and so forth, but we haven't felt like it's a real community for us, and it seems like there's an excessive focus on test prep and achievement generally.

A couple of weeks ago we did a Girl Scout Cookie booth, and the leader, who has daughters in 6th and 3rd grades, gave me an earful about 4th grade at our current school (unprompted). She said, "4th grade is the year [school] loses kids," and talked about the 3 4th grade teachers who have worked together for 15 years and are very tight, how parents are explicitly discouraged from spending time in the classrooms (despite a school-wide open-door policy), and how they are very hard on the kids, with respect to strictness and high standards. Today Casper told us that her current (3rd grade) teacher gave them a lecture today about how hard 4th grade is, and how if you forget to turn things in you get a 0, and (unlike in 3rd grade) they don't let you correct mistakes in your work for extra points after a first grading. Casper was in tears about this.

So, what to do? I definitely think it's a bad idea to paint the 4th grade as a "make or break" year, presenting a challenge in a negative light, to the children, as Mrs. S did today. Casper now has the impression that the 4th grade teachers are mean.

But aside from the PR problem 4th grade has, is the actuality a red flag, or not? I've been ambivalent about the level of rigor at the school; it certainly feels more authoritarian and focused on achievement in the matter of grades rather than in the matter of understanding than our previous school. I have tried to convince myself that this is a good thing, or at least okay, since Casper has mostly managed to rise to the challenges of lots of homework, and she has a tendency to be a bit lazy and sloppy by her (daydreamy, rushing through boring work) nature. I told myself that the enforced rigor would be good for her, teach her that she can achieve high standards if she pays proper care to her work. Now I'm concerned that the school is teaching her that dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's is more important than love of learning and understanding concepts. Which way is right? Does anyone have experiences with school personalities and the rigor question?

I'm going to an open house on Thursday for the new neighborhood school we'll be eligible for. Unfortunately they won't have 4th grade yet next year, and they won't have 5th grade yet by 2013, so it's not really an option for Casper. There will be someone from the Gifted Academy for 3rd-6th grades which will also be moving into the building. But I'm not positive Casper would be able to get into Gifted by the Ohio criteria, and I have no idea about the environment there. And then we get to think again about magnet schools and private schools, again too late and of course the $ issue.

Next on Woes of Elementary School Parenting, we'll have a fun discussion about social anxiety, brattitude, and your 5 year old. At least he has excellent grades?
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