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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Relentlessly Positive

I have a bit of an experiment going on in my Facebook world (and publicly, with other parents).  I'm *trying* to be more positive -- "relentlessly so" -- for a whole month.  I've told people I'll explain the experiment (and the results) in four weeks.

But I've already flubbed up my data with my status line this morning, where I complain that I've had to stand in line at my daughter's high school in order to get her into the *right* math class.  Since I did not say that my blog was included in my "relentlessly positive" experiment, I'm complaining here.

She took Algebra last year, in eighth grade, and passed with an A-.

Does it make sense to make her re-take a class that she did so well in?

If you answer "NO" you then understand logic.

If you answer "Well, it depends" then you must design the system these kids suffer through.

When I picked up her freshman schedule yesterday and saw the error in her math assignment, I immediately did two things.  I called her middle school and left a message that there was an error and that I'd like to know if somehow the middle school had given the high school the wrong information.  I then wrote an email to last year's math teacher and this year's high school guidance counselor and asked if they would please fix the situation.

I didn't hear back from the school, the math teacher or the guidance counselor.

Off I went this morning to change my kid's schedule, although the note on the bottom of the schedule itself, all in caps, made me worry:


I waited in a LONG line for 40 minutes, during which time I chatted with other students about their scheduling problems:  NO math class, or only a half-term of Geometry instead of two, or missing a foreign language, or wrong literature class, or TWO free periods in the middle of the day, or --- my favorite -- only three classes, one of which was "basketball".

I do not remember this degree of system failure when I was in high school.  Perhaps it was because my high school had fewer specialized programs -- everybody just went to SCHOOL, basically 8-3, with the smarter kids taking slightly harder versions of the classes everyone else was taking.  In this school, there are three programs:  "regular" "honors" and IHS (my daughter's program).  Three programs plus over enrollment equals crowded classrooms and classes being "not available," even to students who are eligible to take them.

This all feels like college.

It shouldn't.  This is high school.  She's 14, for God's sake.

While standing in line, I *did* manage to get last year's math teacher on the phone.  She informed me that my daughter had not taken two of the 16 required concept tests last year, and that that was why, despite her excellent grade (and great scores on other standardized state tests) that she was not allowed to go on to Geometry.


Why didn't I hear about this *last May at the latest*?

Why, last year, did my daughter go into school on more than one occasion to make up tests?  Wasn't it, in fact, *those very tests* that she was making up?

Wasn't my daughter told last year that she had completed everything she needed to complete and would go on to take geometry?  (I swear I saw that on some form that came home, but of course now I cannot find it.)

"I've graded everything I have and I don't have those tests from her."

This is the same teacher who also told my daughter that she had not turned in assignments (she had) and that she had to re-do them (she did), only to be told a few days later that "I'm so sorry, but I did find your original assignments".

When I challenged this teacher that perhaps she has misplaced my daughter's tests, she only repeated the "I've graded everything" excuse and then said that my daughter (who, like teens everywhere, hasn't done math all summer) would retake the tests in order to qualify to go on to take Geometry.


I got in to see the scheduler, who told me that although it "made sense" that a kid who passed Algebra with an A- should be allowed to take Geometry, he (the scheduler) couldn't change a core class without permission from the Principal or the Counselor.

Off I went to the Principal's office, only to be told that both he and the Counselor were in a meeting.  But I could wait for 40 minutes and then "corner one or the other" to ask to get the permission to put my kid in the class she belongs in.

I cornered said overworked guidance counselor, only to be told the state won't let the high school give a kid credit  for a course taken in middle school *regardless of the grade in said course* unless they have passed all 16 concept tests.  He said we're "on his radar" but he has "500 of you" to deal with today.

I sympathize.

But I still want my kid not to have to retake a course she got an "A" in.

Welcome to the world of overtesting kids and lack of logic.  The way the system works, if a kid passed all 16 Algebra concept tests (with a 70) and got a "C" in Algebra, he or she could take Geometry.  But if a kid passed 14 of 16 tests (in reality, I strongly suspect 16 of 16), AND gets an "A", she must retake Algebra.

I've now written to the Principal, the Guidance Counselor, this year's math teacher, last year's math teacher, and last year's Vice Principal.  They're all doing research.  But there is no promise that my daughter can take Geometry.

My poor kid is so mad (about lost assignments and lost tests and the potential requirement to re-take tests that she took months ago, just to get into a class that, as I recall, has little to do with Algebra in the first place) that she's practically spitting nails.

Welcome to high school.

Should I mention that Newsweek declared this high school the second best public high school in all of Oregon?

I would hate to see the worst.

But I'll end on a positive note:  Algebra is her first class of the day, so at least tomorrow when she starts high school (with her schedule still "wrong"), she'll get that class out of the way first.


  1. Oh, I would be livid!!! The math teach from last year is an ass; if you have the tests she took from last year, I'd shove them in his face and call him a liar. The counselor sounds like he or she is full of shit and I would not believe anything he/she said unless it was varified! The requirement that he/she is citing sounds made up. I'd contact the State Dept of Education and try to find somebody to verify what the guidence counselor told you. I went to the Oregon Dept of Ed web page, here are some people you may wish to contact:
    1) Cheryl Kleckner (503) 947-5794
    Teaching & Learning Team - Ed. Specialist, Science/Title II-B Mathematics and Science Partnerships. (found under search contacts/topic/content standards)
    2) Theresa Richards (503) 947-5736
    Teaching & Learning Team - Ed. Specialist, Diploma Project Coordinator (found under search contacts/topics/high school)
    3) Mark Freed (503) 947-5610
    Teaching & Learning Team - Education Specialist (found under shearch contacts/topics/math)
    4) Theresa Richards (503) 947-5736
    Teaching & Learning Team - Ed. Specialist, Diploma Project Coordinator (found under search contacts/topics/Oregon diploma)

    Also consider sending her to the wrong class on puropose, and have her sit there quietly and do the work until they catch on.

  2. I would be spitting nails, Elaine. So very sorry to hear this. What is the size of the hs? The one I work at has about 1400 students and I can in no way imagine that happening here.

    Very sad to say, but if you run into a disorganized teacher in the future, make a copy of all hw assts. your child turns in, for documentation. In fact, if you have a scanner, just go ahead and do it.

    So very sorry hon


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