Dear Michael Alexander,
My 10 year old 5th grader was placed in a 504 in 4th grade a year ago due to “anxiety”. At home now since we have examined the curriculum and teaching techniques and find them actually harming Abigail. She was reading well by 3rd grade yet near 0 comprehension, the math, no concepts were achieved yet they push her ahead and time her tests. The english “0” grammar taught! Spelling tests she got 100%‘s always yet did not know the meaning of 90% of the words and could not pronounce any multisyllabic words. In English the stories are low quality where there is no context and people in distant lands, one after another, one story about a “dust monster in a boys room with a sign on the door to keep out and pizza on the floor”. Also bullying stories, ghost stories, the giant spider placing the moon in the sky story, the mouse sleeping with his girl friend story, Bramah being locked in a cage to be eaten by a lion, etc etc on and on it goes. I am in touch with the superintendent. I got Abigail opted out of JJ Math, basically a video math game that was supposed to increase test scores. It had no results so we requested she study piano at home instead and she has and done well now. This year we opted out of on line learning and we home school her. Yet we are taking her learning material to the school and the teacher is now seeing what we are doing. They allowed us to remain enrolled. We have not un-enrolled because I believe the schools have the legal obligation under FAPE to provide an appropriate education. It is a “right” we have and they have to provide this. Secretly, often in a side bar the staff and teachers often agree with me in principle. We chose to work within the system. I try to keep to the facts regarding the cirriculum itself and the teaching methods. I know if I attack them ideologically all discussions will be over. I try to be kind and respectful and honest. (a departure from years past where frustrations were high) We have had 5 kids in the district over many years. I find that SPECIAL ED is a school scape goat to make parents think our child is ADD or ADhD or anxiety ridden or dyslectic etc etc ad infinitum. Parents then feel guilty. “Was it me, did I cause this?” Then the school imposes solutions that actually make the child worse! Yet the district then receives millions of dollars from the federal government. Special ed does not work! It dumbs down the curriculum even more and gives the child a false sense that they are learning and takes the heat off. But even High Honors Students here in Long Beach are often placed in remedial reading at Cal State Long Beach. The 504 classes in high school do not help. Much of public education is smoke and mirrors. By the time parents realize the problems it’s too late, their child is damaged goods. We did try a charter school, it was worse! State requirements were in ever detail of the school. We had to drive miles and miles for classes. The teaching specialists were often even more draconian governed by the state. So I decided to work in the system. I choose to be respectful and try to be kind to staff but I tell it like it is and I do not back down. Parents have every right and power given by the constitution to demand an appropriate education. I do not hate these people. But I do see an underlying agenda. But I believe that the key is in demanding FAPE and refusing special ed based on my reasons as it does not help. This leaves parents with great powers given by our founders. It is also difficult because parents work and do not have the ability often to educate at home. The schools have a great PR to parents making parents think the schools are great and teachers are elevated to “hero’s”. The schools major in the minors, pushing cutie things, socializing, celebrating silly things and this and that in-ad-finitum that has nothing to do with learning. Parents are being led to embracing the schools as wonderful sanctuaries for the kids. Abigail could not pronounce words with more than two syllables. She was not taught proper diction. Now we have her in Latin, Greek roots, looking up words, cognitively reading quality books, writing thoughtful analytic papers, working through math concepts to master them to reach understanding. Our goal is to continue with the district and work within the system even though the system has failed our student. There is no way we will send her to middle school without vast accommodations. All I can do now is simply encourage other parents to realize that APPROPRIATE education is the right of every child. But I want to be thoughtful about it not just ideological. Coming at the schools ideologically is a path to failure to foment change for out student in the schools. If parents simply read through the curriculum carefully and reason through it, and examine why their student is not appropriately being educated, and either lost in the system or being held back by it, misguided, low test scores, or just simply bored, the arguments become very clear and the schools must provide proper education and proper choices for my student. I believe if the curriculum is appropriate high quality and the methods are sound, the concepts taught and achieved before being pushed on to the next grade, the results will be very positive. Our goal is that our student be able to think for herself, cognitively learn, reason through ideas good or bad and be able to reach her own opinion based on logic and understanding. The other alternative is to move out of California and run right into the same failed curriculum in other rates as well.
Thomas Fenholt, Parent of Abigail