Dear Mr. Principal,
I wanted to follow up with you regarding our meeting three weeks ago. I am disappointed to report that in the last three weeks, I have not seen any significant improvement for Princess (1st grade). Briefly before the holiday, she was bringing home extra worksheets that were closer to the level of work she was doing in kinder; however, one night she had two of the same worksheet and indicated the teacher wanted her to do the same worksheet, twice. Additionally, she had a Saxon worksheet she had completed without error the week before. I spoke with Ms. 1st Grade on the telephone, who indicated she was giving extra worksheets to her advanced students and confirmed that she was giving them duplicates for practice. I could not think of a tactful way to share my thoughts on the logic of that practice, but I did express that while I appreciated her efforts to challenge Princess, having the advanced children do the same assignment twice and giving them extra worksheets in addition to the regular class work almost punishes a child for being academically gifted. I pointed out that it seemed more logical to simply give the child work that is academically appropriate to their skill level. Ms. 1st Grade indicated to me then that she had to follow the curriculum. This is completely at odds with what I was told by Ms. Marketing/Enrollment prior to enrolling my children at SSA and what we discussed in August, which was that while there was no gifted program, my children would be allowed to accelerate within the curriculum and would not be held back. I haven’t seen any ‘extra’ worksheets since that conversation, but the work Princess brings home continues to be the equivalent of the sight words and spelling words that her kindergarten teacher assigned during the first few weeks of school. I ran into Princess’s kindergarten teacher last week and when she asked about Princess’s new school, all I could say was, ‘At least she’s bored in a class of 10 instead of being bored in a class of 25.’
I also mentioned that Wild Child had not had any assigned homework. He started having homework the following week, however, he almost never brings it home because he has finished it in class. I have inquired with Mr. 4th/5th Grade multiple times as to whether Wild Child is indeed turning in his homework and his answers are generally vague. I have made it a point to speak with Mr. 4th/5th Grade on more than one occasion about Wild Child’s severe executive function deficits and hyperactivity; as the parent of an ADHD child Mr. 4th/5th Grade assured me that he was very familiar with the needs of students with ADHD. Unfortunately, I have not seen any evidence of this. There has been no follow up from Mr. 4th/5th Grade confirming whether or not Wild Child is turning in his homework. I have also seen no graded homework or class work. I have asked Wild Child if Mr. 4th/5th Grade ever gives reminders such as, ‘make sure you have your books or assignments, etc; either to him to the class at large, and he says there are none. It has also become apparent that Wild Child spends a considerable amount of time in class where he is supposed to ‘find something quiet to do’ while Mr. 4th/5th Grade teaches the other grade. Never having taught myself I can’t say I know the best way to manage any classroom, mixed grade or otherwise, but leaving about a dozen children, at least one of which has hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, to their own devices seems unwise at best. What I understand from Wild Child, and I admit that his perspective is not always the whole picture, Mr. 4th/5th Grade instructs them to work on homework, read, or draw while he teaches the other class. I don’t get the impression from Wild Child that he usually has any specific class work he is supposed to be doing while the other grade receives instruction. I don’t think this classroom environment has the structure or organization that Wild Child needs to be successful, and I am having an increasingly difficult time picturing my child in it for one year, much less two (although if we stay the year, perhaps next year enrollment will have increased enough to have separate 4/5 classrooms). I mentioned in our meeting that Wild Child seems to have a great deal of time to draw – frankly I’ve become concerned this 4/5 split classroom has left my child only being instructed about half the time he’s in the classroom. I admit to being spoiled as Wild Child has had some truly exceptional teachers, but he has never had time in any other classroom, not even with the first grade teacher I thought was mediocre at best, ever had time to sit and draw, nor told to bring a book from home to keep busy with. And I should probably ditto that for Princess; she comes home with anywhere from one to five pages of notebook paper covered in pictures and with little notes written on them. Additionally, the work that Wild Child is doing, particularly in math and spelling is not the level of work he was doing in third grade. I’m especially concerned to have read on Mr. 4th/5th Grade homework log that the 4th and 5th graders are both doing the chapter in the spelling book. This week’s words definitely easier than what I’m used to seeing Wild Child bring home and I can’t help but wonder what fifth grade would hold for him in this classroom.
A side note: I see no correlation between the spelling words and any of his subject matter and am not sure what is being done regarding integration of subjects. In 2nd and 3rd grade, Wild Child’s spelling words ALWAYS were related to what he was studying in math, science, social studies, or language arts. My daughters spelling words at the beginning of her kindergarten year were always variations of the group of sight words she was learning, and by the end of the year her teacher had all but given up trying to challenge her ‘apple group’ and started asking them what they wanted to learn to spell… so Princess came home with spelling words like ‘significant’ and ‘cooperate’.
Finally, I wanted to comment about the after school activities. I was very perplexed to get the list of proposed activities and see that the only options available to my 4th grader would be music, sports, and spelling. There is nothing for science or math or strategic thinking (chess, etc), which was what I was expecting from SSA. I left a public school that offered band to all 4-8 students as well as football, basketball, soccer, and softball, so the fact that his options are basically a watered down version of extracurriculars he could have had at the school I pulled him from is incredibly disappointing. I was even more perplexed that K-2 students have three more after school options than the 4th graders do, and that their options are more academic than those offered to older, more mature students with longer attention spans. Can you give me any insight into those disparities?