Quitting DC Schools
It’s not a secret that we have loved Stoddert Elementary in Glover Park and have loved all our teachers. It’s really easy to love your school in the early years when the stakes are lower. Little kids, little problems. As the years pass, bigger kids start to have bigger problems. We started wondering if the public middle school was the right next step.
I wrote out my notes for this twice. I even recorded the first version. Then things changed. Like really quickly massively changed and things were progressing so quickly that I had to delete my recording and update everything.
More specifically, PARCC testing. Students in grades 3–8 and students enrolled in Algebra I/II, Geometry, and English I/II will take the PARCC test. From the DCPS Website, the PARCC test allegedly “assesses what your child is learning in school and helps teachers and parents know if students are on track for success in college and careers.”
Did you see the part where it’s administered up through 8th grade and a few classes in 9th? College and careers? What?
We didn’t grasp the full extent of this stupidity when Mercina got to 3rd grade because that was 2020. (put masks on) Now that the girls are in 3rd and 5th we truly understand the full lunacy of this madness. In late March, we received emails from school that the curricula was essentially winding down and they were going into 3 weeks of review for PARCC.
I need to say that again because it’s mind-blowing. Three weeks of review for a standardized test.
This is what they mean when they say “teaching to the test.”
Why is this necessary? Why are we taking 3 weeks out of school to learn things solely to do well on a test? There was no homework for most of April because they said the kids are being given a break due to the PARCC testing. I’m not a huge homework fan but I can’t understand how it’s so easy to just take a month off from it. This PARCC thing is multi-layered BS cake if you didn’t realize it yet. First, all regular learning stops. Second, they spoonfeed them exactly how to do well on the test. Third, they offer bribes to stay motivated to do well like no homework or special snacks.
Want to know why they are bribing them? Follow. The. Money.
“As a teacher, I think the PARCC is a waste of time…our school and administration will be penalized if we don’t have a certain number of students sit for it. Also, teachers and principal’s bonuses are tied to PARCC results.”
Let’s dive deeper into the stupidity associated with PARCC testing. Not only are there are bonuses for teachers and Principals based on test scores, but the bonus structure is higher for minorities according to a well-connected source. This is why some schools, as overcrowded as they may be, will take out-of-boundary kids off the waitlist.
I couldn’t believe this, but I also knew the information came on good authority. But then one day, I found myself at a closing table with clients who were selling their home. The buyer, who was on the other side of the transaction, told us she had been a DCPS teacher but left to teach at a private school. I said, “May I ask you a question? Is it true that…” She confirmed this as well.
So, DCPS is basically playing politics with our children. There is no “that side” or “this side” here. All of us should be mad about this. If you’re in boundary, you should be mad that your schools are overcrowded and yet they still accept out of boundary students, not out of the kindness of their hearts, but because it has a financial benefit. If you’re out of boundary, you should be mad your child was cherry picked because they are worth more money in someone’s pocket.
Leia told me that they pull some kids out of her class to take the test in another location. The children pulled out all happen to be born outside the U.S. with another language as their first, despite their exceptional fluency in English.
You can opt your kid out, but most people don’t. Also, does your kid want to be singled out while the rest of the class is taking a test that means nothing for their education anyway? It’s a measure of how well the school is doing, nothing else. It’s your Great Schools Score – in action.
I’ve told the kids not to worry about these tests. I don’t want to mess things up for our school or the teachers who we have adored all these years, but Leia was super stressed and didn’t want to take the rest of these tests. I emailed her teacher about it. She didn’t reply, but let’s just say my email went up the chain, and I received a message back from another teacher. It had many people copied on it at the school to include the Principal.
The theme of the reply was like: “Gee I GUESS you could opt out, no one has really ever asked before, and here’s some links on what I found when I googled.” Oh, I know for a fact people have asked and opted out. Good lord.
So now the truth is out as to why an overcrowded school will open up spaces that don’t exist for kids in other wards. Everything is political. Even our children’s education.
Administrators with Hands Tied a.k.a. Restorative Practice
Restorative Practice, softened from the former term Restorative Justice, is where the school hopes that with some guidance, children can solve their own issues.
Our school has had several situations that escalated beyond what anyone would want for their child. Three years ago, a 2nd grade boy punched a 2nd grade girl in the face because her foot touched his foot during story time. What made him think he could do this? His mother told him to.
The day he met with the Principal, he was later overheard in a school bathroom crying. His mother was yelling at him to stop crying and that he did what she told him – punched the girl in the face. There were witnesses to his conversation. But that’s not the worst of it. The mom works at our school. Our school turns into a DPR site when the school day is over.
The following year, the same student, now in 3rd grade, dumped paint he found in a closet all over the cafeteria. People in the know report he was never disciplined.
This year he hit another student in the face and when that made it to the Principal’s office for discipline, the kid who got hit was clearly coached to say, “It was a mutual misunderstanding.” A few months later, he pushed another student down the stairs. According to a teacher, he was never disciplined.
Is he still in school? Yes
Does his mother still work there? Yes
Anyone got a plan for this kid to not turn into the Unibomber? No idea.
Last month a 3rd grader with known psychological issues, beat up a Pre-K kid. The 3rd grader had to be physically restrained. This child needs more than what the regular public school can offer.
Should he have been expelled? In my book, yes. He’s a danger to himself and other children.
Is he still there? Sure is.
Last week, the same student had some sort of breakdown again where he had to be physically restrained. He bit a teacher. The teacher had to go to Urgent Care where the doctor said he had never seen anything like the bite that he received. This is where I lost my cool.
I’m now highly worried we are brewing the next school shooter and nothing is being done about it. I’ve emailed school administration all the way up to the Chancellor. I understand they have schools filled with similar problems like ours. I’ve amassed about a dozen other concerned parents and we’re lobbying for a meeting with them to discuss safety in our schools.
From the infamous mom message board, here’s what a teacher said with respect to volatile students, “it takes months of red tape data collection to get the child into the setting they need to be in.”
So the rest of our kids are in danger while everyone dots their i’s and crosses their t’s 8000 times. I may sound hardcore here, but my children’s safety is non-negotiable.
The red tape slows down getting kids the help they need. And the other kids suffer. Their education suffers, and their personal safety is at risk. In our school right now, the teacher’s safety is also at risk. Our school reading teacher is pretty much permanently dispatched to follow this particular student around the school.
These are just two kids I know about because my own children are in the same grades with them. I have been informed by parents that there are others in the other grades.
I’m highly concerned about the elementary school at this point. I trust and rely on the teachers and administration in place to do the best they can. But do I think my girls are safe? No, I don’t. And this month, May, 2023, is the first time I have ever said that.
Other fun things of note this year include:
- A drunk bus driver with a bus full of kindergartners on the way home from a field trip.
- The cafeteria manager retired, the very next day the replacement forgot to cook the food and a bunch of kids got sick
And, as recently as this past week, the middle school we were zoned for is overthrowing the Principal. The PTO called an emergency meeting and 300 parents were in attendance. They cited the following:
- A Security incident the Principal swept under the rug.
- Budget and Staffing decisions by the Principal resulting in being short on the target number of teachers.
- Electives will be limited and pre-selected
- Some good teachers may be leaving.
I texted these developments to Jim and said, “I have never felt like we dodged a bullet more in our lives than right now.”
I’ve mentioned the incidents where students assaulted other students or teachers. These incidents resulted in re-routing of the entire school from their morning routine and dismissal. We were never told why. Inside the school there was an announcement about avoiding the cafeteria area, but this merely incited more panic than it should have. Parents were told nothing. A simple message that a student had a health issue and needed privacy would have done worlds of good in stopping a lot of the idle chatter.
When someone from DC’s General Service Department accidentally pulled the lockdown alarm around 10 a.m. one morning, sending the entire school into closets and bathrooms, with kids fearing for their lives, the parents didn’t get a message until after pickup. There were kids who were crying and others who were praying. This isn’t okay. A message and robocalls should have gone out immediately. This is a huge fail.
As my husband said, “They have no problem communicating when there’s a case of lice or strep throat, but no one tells us the really important stuff.”
Lack of Good Leadership
I get it that these are really tough jobs. We learned during the pandemic that we hate educating our kids.
There are currently anywhere between 7-12 Principals who are resigning this year according to the crazy mom board. We got a new Principal post-pandemic and I thought she was here to stay. From my perspective as a parent, I thought she was good. But after 2 years, she’s leaving. How bad must it be for her to leave?
The middle school had a great Principal for the entire duration of our elementary school years. Then the year Mercina hit 5th grade, he left and there’s a new Principal.
I wanted to keep tabs on the middle school so I signed up for their weekly email messages. Beside the fact that they always have at least 2 glaring spelling errors, they are filled with gems. This week: “As we close out the year, we have decided to test pilot a new bathroom structure. Students will sign in and out of the bathroom before entering and exiting. There will be a hall monitor on every floor that students will sign in and out with. Hall monitors are Principal, Assistant Principal, Security Guards, Deans, Counselors and Support Staff.”
Middle school is the worst. We chose to save Mercina from what sounds like a disorganized situation at the middle school with bullying, administration that has no control, teachers who don’t respond to any inquiries, and kids vandalizing bathrooms.
There’s a new high school opening near us that we will be zoned for based on our address. I’m currently quite happy about this, as it sounds like it will be a smaller school than the current high school. They are starting out with a class this fall, and we’ll have a few years to watch to see how things unfold. We’re not 100% out of DC Public Schools. Leia is still there, and we are truly hoping to re-enroll for high school. Round 1 of this video had me believing that we were 90% going to go back to public for high school. In the past few weeks, that number has dropped to 25%. That’s how “hopeful” I am that they can turn this around to a place where we’ll feel comfortable sending the kids back based on everything going on with Administration.
I’ll be watching you, DCPS, I’m watching you closely.