Friday, October 22, 2010

A Meeting at my Daughter's School (A Rant of the Highest Order)

Before I start my rant, let me just say that I appreciate the teachers and their efforts.  I have no doubt that the feelings and intentions behind what is discussed here are pure and that they truly believe that this is the best course of action for the children.  With that said, we all know however, where the path of good intentions can sometimes lead us...

Last night a 'mandatory' parent's meeting was held at my daughters middle school about a proposed class trip to Disney.  As I sat through this unorganized jumble of a meeting, I just had to laugh at the total lack of foresight among these individuals.  Let me see if I can shed some light on the lack of logic that was presented and offended so last night.

First, they decided to tell the kids about the trip before they told the parents.  The trip cost is $550 plus needing money for a few lunches, a dinner and other assorted details (like required t-shirts that they just did not bury into the price for some unfathomable reason).  My daughters' school is a Title I school meaning there is over 70% of the students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program.  In reality, this means that over 70% of the students in this school have household incomes under $40,000 a year. I at least expected to hear about ways that they would have scholarships or sponsorship opportunities for children unable to afford this trip (perhaps even some fundraising to efforts to reduce the costs for all of the kids) but alas... While, we are lucky and can probably squeak this out for our child, those parents who can not afford such a trip gets a free trip to 'bad guy' land!  My guess, it is probably not the 'happiest place on earth'.

If that was not fun enough, they are asking the parents to produce a $100 non-refundable deposit by Monday (since they only have 50 spots available for potentially 84 child who could go on the trip).  They also put conditions on the kids being 'allowed to go.'  The have to maintain an overall 85% average grade (though report cards do not come out until Tuesday).  The also have to score 75 on this behavior scale that they have implemented.  Now the researcher in me got real interested at this point.  This scale is based on four dimensions (including evaluating my child's emotional maturity) with four items measuring each dimension.  Except, they forgot to photocopy the scale so no one can see it.  They did however, put it up on the projector in a nice ten point font for all of us to see (if we had 20/20 vision sitting in the front row).  They did however have little strips of paper to give us with our child's current score on this 'scale.'  As a researcher I am now to laugh at the ridiculousness of the proceedings.  You mean I am to determine if I am willing to put up a $100 non-refundable deposit based on a score to which I do not have access to the measurement tool and have no idea as to how children are being scored on this said scale even if I had a copy.  They stated in the meeting that they children needed to achieve a score of 75 but said nothing of what this score means. Is that score concept based on the average score of someone at this grade level?  Are the expectations in a higher percentile?  Did they pull the number out of their behinds?

So being the researcher I am, I have now spent time looking to find this scale in the academic or education literature anywhere.  I want to see if it has been tested empirically and if it has any validity.  They stated that they are using the scale to ensure that our children are ready to take said trip.  Therefore, they are looking for this to be a predictive model.  It then stands to reason, that this should be a well established model.  So what do I find? Nothing (at least with any substance).  I can not find a single article where this model has been empirically tested.    It seems to be 100% edu-babble but I may be incorrect.  The principal is suppose to email me citations, so we shall see.

In order to fairly assess the results of the meeting in total let me review my impressions upon leaving: 1) I am down $550; 2) mystified by the total lack of logic; and 3) disturbed by the lack of sensitivity displayed by the organizers.  All in all, a productive meeting.  Mickey Mouse would be proud!


Post Script: To the principal that stated that the students not only have to ask questions in class but that in order to score well on this assessment tool, they have to be good questions.  Who are you to determine what is a good question and what is not?  Then again, I will soon be sharing many questions with you and your superintendent if the answers you give are not good.

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