I spend a lot of time talking to people whose children attend public schools in my fairly affluent area. What always surprises me is the disconnect between the facts they recite and their ultimate conclusion about our school district. Their ultimate conclusion is that the school district is just wonderful. As for their facts? Well….
One Mom told me how wonderful her daughter’s second grade teacher was. The example she gave centered on the day her daughter came home with an F on a math exam. The mother, who was very concerned about this, instantly approached the teacher. The teacher beneficently promised the Mom that the grade wouldn’t be held against the child because, in fact, all of the children failed the math exam. The mother was grateful for the teacher’s generosity. I was shocked. Shouldn’t the teacher apologize for her abysmal job teaching those students?
Another Mom told me that something great had happened at her school. The psychotic fourth grade teacher — the one who regularly broke down and cried in the class, and who often hurled insults at the students — was not teaching any longer. “Oh,” I said. “Did they fire her?” Nope. She was now the PE teacher, where the students would only be exposed to her a couple of times a week. Tenure kept her firmly tied to the school despite her manifest incompetence.
Yet another Mom told me that, at her son’s school, the school collected all of the text books ten days before final exams. ‘Nuff said about that one.
Most of the Moms boast about the hours they spend in the classroom assisting their “wonderful” teachers. Apparently, despite a low student-teacher ratio (about 20-1, plus a part time assistant), these teachers simply can’t get around to spelling basics for all the children. The mothers always seem taken aback when I suggest that teachers who earn almost $50,000 a year for 8 months of work should be expected to teach the basics without needing the mothers to assist them.
I’ll admit I’m being somewhat nasty here. Ours is one of the State’s better school districts. The schools are beautiful; the teachers are, for the most part, kind, committed and normal; the children are nice and test well; and the parents are obviously happy. I just find bewildering the chasm that sometimes opens up between their experiences and the conclusions they draw.