I want to support our public school--not just for my own family's sake, but for the good of the community...BUT--
We were new to the school district last year ('10-11). By all accounts it is a GREAT school. Low ratings on standardized tests, etc... are excused due to the very low #'s of students taking tests. Our tiny, isolated town has 1 school, K-12 with about 280 students--so there are limited options, to say the least.
Last year, our DD was in K and it was an incredibly frustrating year. While her teacher was a lovely, kind woman, the class was conducted at the level appropriate for a typical 3 year old, except without the hands on, creative, exploratory learning environment one would hope to find in pre school. Without going into too much detail, it was rote "drilling" of colors, shapes etc... Letters were started mid way through the school year, covering 1 letter and sound per week. The only books available were toddler style board books.
After meeting numerous times with the teacher, the teacher and principal, just the principal, we decided the best course of action was to keep our daughter home 1-2 days per week to supplement school. The admin. grumbled about it a little, but we were well within our "rights" and it worked well for our daughter. She was able to progress and be appropriately challenged academically at home, and do the things she liked at school. She loved everything about school (riding the bus, seeing friends, talking with the adults, art, music, PE, library), but the academic element simply not a fit for her.
So, after getting to know the K teacher and other parents a bit last year, it seems there is 'quiet' frustration about the slow pace of K, but it seems to be accepted as just the way it is and will be. The one and only pre school option in the area is a 40+ year old private nursery school, operating 2 am's per week. It provides a play group environment. The K teacher told us her hands are tied, as there is not adequate pre K so she does the best she can to catch the K's up to speed on the very basics. The admin at school said they have no $ for school pre K etc, no money for any enrichment, etc..
First grade is a little better, but... 2nd grade teacher is widely regarded as a joke, and we have a rising 3 year old who will likely be in the same boat for her school experience. My son's experience, also 10th grade is academically marginal at best.... I guess I point this out to let you know we are looking at the big picture, not just the early grades.
I did some additional fact finding, and discovered our school is the only district in the area (and it's a pretty large range) that does not offer any kind of school supported pre K. As I had "followed the proper chain of command" the previous year w/no adequate response, this year I took my concern to the school board level, requesting the school to look at various options to improve opportunities in the early grades.
Again, I won't go into too many details, but despite support from a few other parents, objective information provided, a polite and respectful attitude on my part, the BoE pretty much rolled their eyes and dismissed my concerns. They are clearly not used to being questioned about anything. While they should be commended for their willingness to volunteer for school leadership, they also shown themselves to be pretty small minded, and lacking in any kind of professionalism. I was prepared for not having them agree with me, but disappointed at their outright dismissal.
....BUT, 1 BoE member (also a board member of the pre K), in particular, saw this concern only as being against the long established pre-K. Apparently the pre-K has sacred cow status, and anything seen as less than glowing reviews of that program is blasphemy. At the last BoE meeting (last week), my concerns, proactive suggestions, etc.. were twisted and turned, dismissed as invalid. My family was really portrayed poorly for questioning the status quo, and being some kind of nutty academically pushing extremists.
I thought I had pretty thick skin, but apparently not. I am really frustrated and hurt by some of the comments made, and the attitudes shown. We have been made to feel unwelcome. It's a tiny, tiny town, so this unwelcome attitude extends well beyond the school environment.
I am ready to just give up. It seems like the only option we have is to home school. Right now I want to isolate my family entirely, but that is likely just me feeling so raw. Advice?? Ideas??