Until this year my daughter was a straight A’d student, and her experience with Oklahoma schools was great.  I always attributed her success in school to her smarts and her self-discipline.  She’s one of those kids that comes home, does her homework, and asks you to check it all without any prompting what so ever from an influencing adult. It’s pretty amazing. I’m almost jealous of that natural ability that she has.

So needless to say her father and I this year, 4th grade, when we checked her grades on-line for the first time we were shocked to see that she was suddenly flunking all of her tests. Sure she was getting perfect scores on her daily work, but her test scores were shocking.  We contacted her teacher and her solution? “4th grade is a hard year. She needs to learn to study.”

I did not know how to respond to this as this teacher obviously did not know my child at all. So we set up a parent/teacher conference, and about 5 minutes in we got the “she needs to learn to study” comment again. That’s when I pulled out the tests we’d been collecting and showed that perhaps that it wasn’t that she needed to learn to study. Perhaps she was having reading difficulties as the questions she kept missing? They were styled exactly the same way. Then we got a “Maybe she has a processing disorder. I’ll watch her.”

A little while passed and nothing changed.  So knowing the way the school system works I knew that if I really wanted anything done I had to contact the school counselor.

Warning:  If you were unaware the school counselor acts in a similar way as the HR department in a corporation.  On the outside they present themselves as there to help your child.  But really helping children is their secondary function, and their main function is to protect the school.  It is important that if you ever have experiences with the school counselor you know this fact.

When I contacted the school counselor, I told her about the fact that my super, self-disciplined daughter who loves school went from being a straight A’d student to flunking all of her tests. After receiving my e-mail the school counselor then called my super shy daughter who won’t talk to strangers in to talk to her before talking to me first. She asked her if there was anything in the classroom that bothered her, and of course my daughter says, “No.” She doesn’t know this lady. Why is she suddenly going to open up to her? She’s not.

The counselor then talks to my daughter’s teacher, and the teacher tells her that there might be a processing disorder. It is finally at this point that the counselor contacts me a couple of days after my e-mail. I tell her about my concerns once again. She tells me about what she’s learned from my daughter and her teacher, and she says that they are going to make up a TASK group for my daughter.

A TASK group is a group that basically consists of the school counselor, the child’s teacher, and two random teachers.  They observe your child and look for ways to help your child improve in school.

After several months of observations, if my child has not improved the school moves to the testing stage to see if indeed my child has a processing disorder and needs an IEP. So basically my daughter’s school has figured out they can delay spending the money necessary to help my child through an IEP by putting forth a very, very long observation period. Meanwhile, they allow the child to flounder and get further and further behind. What a great solution that have developed to get past the fact that the Oklahoma government doesn’t give them enough money to function properly.

So the TASK group has been in place for a while now, and quite frankly I see no change what so ever in the way my daughter is being handled in the classroom. I have received zero communication from the school counselor. I have received minimal communication from the teacher, usually started by me. And at home she is studying 2-3 hours a night minimum just to keep up.

My daughter now cries on a regular basis calling herself “stupid,” and last night she told me that she doesn’t want to study any more, and she no longer cares if she passes her tests.

This “evaluation” process that her school as come up with to delay testing has broken her. And my once self-motivated, self-disciplined child?  She’s gone, at least as far as school is concerned.

When talking to my husband last night about this situation he succinctly summed up the problem.

  • My daughter was a self-confident, straight A’d student who loved school.
  • My daughter is now flunking her tests,  does not care about school, and calls herself “stupid.”
  • We at home have done everything we know to do to help her.
  • Half of the school year is over.
  • We have not seen any change in the classroom since the school got involved.
  • We are on the verge of permanent damage when it comes to school and her attitude about it.
  • Her Oklahoma school needs to become active now in helping my child, not months from now.

So last night I sent another e-mail requesting an update from the counselor and her teacher.  I offered the “I’m so stupid” comments up as a desperate plea hoping to tear at their heart-strings  so that something would actually happen.  Furthermore, I offered up my own plan for my daughter in the classroom as I feel like they are taking entirely too long to come up with something for my daughter themselves. Hopefully they’ll hear me, will care, and will take some action.

In the mean while I’m researching and talking to experts outside of Oklahoma trying to figure out what to do for my child. Call me cynical. But I just don’t trust that Oklahoma has my child’s best interest at heart.

*****************************************

Update November 15, 2011:  I talked to my daughter’s teacher the day that this posted.  I ran into her at school as I was there to pick her up early for a doctor’s appointment.  She was upset to hear about my daughter crying in the evenings, and verbally went over her science test with her verbally.  She passed.  She also offered to help to tutor her daily,  so that she wouldn’t have to spend so much time at home studying.  I was grateful to have this exchange with her, and was pleased to see that she was concerned.  

I have yet to hear from the school counselor.

Kelly Kinkaid (1006 Posts)

Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.


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12 Responses to Oklahoma Schools and the Loophole

  1. I have learned very quickly that is focusing on what is best for my child is me. Even though her teachers and schools have honestly cared about her their focus is what works for the school not what works for my child.

    It’s sad that to get what we need for our kids we have to go to battle. You can never accept the process or the first option given or believe that the system will serve them. It is depressing what the educational system in this country has become.

    If you can, find and hire an advocate. We haven’t had to go there yet since we have had people who know the system advising us but for people that don’t have that, an advocate can get you farther than you can get on your own. There are even legal firms that specialize in it.

  2. We ran into a similar problem at our Oklahoma school. Starting in second grade, my daughter’s teachers started telling me that there was something “off” about the way she learned, but they couldn’t put their fingers on it. That’s helpful, isn’t it? They didn’t offer to help me find out or test her or anything, they just wanted me to be aware that she’s “different somehow”.

    I’ve since done my own research and discovered some coping mechanisms I’ve taught my daughter, but I chose not to involve the school for the same reasons you mention in your article. I hope you find some solutions soon. I’m so sorry your family is having to deal with this largely on your own.

  3. This breaks my heart and frustrates me so much Kelly :(
    I am sorry to hear the school is not helping you at all. I hate how much of a bureaucracy a public school is. I really wish they could stop wasting all of your daughter’s valuable time and just work with her in the way she learns best.

    Is there another option around you? Charter school perhaps?

  4. Jennifer says:

    I told you my story at lunch that day. You know what we went through, and we were PAYING for it. So, that’s the main reason we pulled our kids out of school. I’ve had it with the cookie cutter bullcrap that passes as education. To be honest, it’s not the teacher’s fault. They are underpaid and overworked. Because they are so busy teaching to state mandates, they have very little time to teach our children how they need to be taught. Don’t even get me started.

    I rarely give unsolicited advice, but here I’m gonna throw down: If I had pulled our daughter out at this time last year, it would have been better for all involved. Pull the trigger. Don’t hesitate. They care about the bottom line. You care about your child. Yes, it’s hard. It’s totally worth it.

  5. Kato says:

    I have a lot of issues with the way schools are set up today. Teachers do not have the latitude to instill curiosity in a child. The emphasis put on testing has set up a situation where there is an authority figure with all of the answers and the students job is to parrot the correct responses. Real learning does not come from studying a book to just spit out the facts, but playing with information until it is internalized. I don’t mean frivolous play, but play as it relates to mastery and mastery as it relates to understanding. What your post sounds like is not so much that they killed her love of school, but they have killed her curiosity, and that is much more tragic.

    My kids were in the Oklahoma school system and we left (we now homeschool), because we found that we were spending hours trying to rekindle our kids love of learning and playing with ideas. I’m not a traditional homeschooler in that I don’t teach, I hire tutors and pay for online classes, so I’m the principal of our homeschool. It’s not for everyone, but if I were still advocating in the school, I would try and supplement with materials that push critical thinking and ignite curiosity. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this and if it’s any consolation, tell your daughter that any computer can be programmed to regurgitate information, she’s not stupid because she has the ability to THINK and CREATE and be more than a flat generic test. She’s better than that.

  6. Deb says:

    How frustrating, Kelly, and I’m sorry LittleC (and you!) are going through this. The description of the process sounds agonizing…and familiar.

    Couple thoughts:
    * Consider having her privately tested by an educational psychologist, not by the school district. That way, you don’t have to wait on the school, and you’d have a professional not related to the school involved in her evaluation. I’d also suggest not limiting the scope of testing to the processing disorder.

    * Don’t rush to a diagnosis or IEP. I know it’s important to get answers so that she can get back on track, but you want the correct answer, and that can take time.

    * You’d said: “We are on the verge of permanent damage when it comes to school and her attitude about it.” Maybe not. When you find the answer(s) and her needs are met, it’s very possible that her attitude will turn around yet again.

    We’ve experienced the frustrations, brick walls, and red tape you describe here in Colorado, too. With both kids. It shouldn’t be a painful experience when you have to go to bat for your child’s education, but it most certainly has been for us.

    Keep us posted, yes?

  7. Suzie Wood says:

    Funny, I went from an exceptional above average math student in 3rd grade to dysfunctional about math in 4th grade. Actually, a lot of my peers did, too and they ended up firing the teacher (in Texas). So sorry you’re dealing with this; I’ve been where your daughter is and I HATE that she is feeling the same way I did. It took years (and a high school teacher willing to spend lots of extra time) for me to be confident in the subject area of math.

  8. Scott says:

    You have to pull the kid now. 3rd and 4th grade are pivotal. If her academic confidence is destroyed now and she is placed in classes with other “problem” learners, it will take her years and tens of thousands of counseling dollars to be able to see herself as she is again.

    PULL HER OUT NOW.

    The stakes are too high and the upside of staying in is nonexistent.

  9. Deb says:

    PS: I’d keep those tests you’ve been collecting. Where you said: “Perhaps she was having reading difficulties as the questions she kept missing? They were styled exactly the same way.”

    Ashleigh was in a class once where students were required to memorize states and capitals using only the individual state shapes, without any other context. Texas and Florida and California…no problem. But for the life of her, she couldn’t identify the states based only on the shapes, even after studying, restudying, and retesting three times. When we asked the teacher about it, she was clear that the test was designed for one kind of learner (it was a standardized beginning-of-year IB test), and even after just a couple weeks into the school year, this teacher knew Ashleigh was a different kind of learner than this test was designed for. (Ashleigh is all about the process and details of understanding, not about “the answer.”)

    The teacher offered a different test format on the same material, and Ashleigh did just fine. There was no processing problem or disorder. It was a teaching approach that didn’t meet Ashleigh’s learning style, and a testing approach that didn’t elicit what Ashleigh really knew and understood.

    Cookie-cutter we ain’t. And there’s nothing wrong or disordered about it.

  10. beth says:

    It is so tough to watch a child go through something like this. As a parent of a child who has had a very similar experience at about the same age, I understand the feelings of being powerless and generally undermined by a system that I was not very familiar with. I wasn’t sure about what was happening to my daughter’s learning (she has dyslexia) or how to go about getting someone to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I did find out that there ARE people who care about my child’s welfare, that there are many students like her with her kinds of needs, and that I/we have rights.

    I agree with Deb that you should have her tested outside of school. Schools are swamped with testing of this sort as well as the NCLB stuff. I’d have a full neuropsych evaluation done. Know what your child is dealing with so you can help her learn whatever coping skills necessary and you can supplement what she needs in regards to her everyday work.

    We tried the private school route. Smaller classes don’t necessarily mean better options when it comes to special needs/accommodations/modifications. It will depend on what you find out with the testing and your current school’s programs. The public school by law must intervene on your child’s behalf.

    Yes- this kind of esteem issue can have ameliorating effects… but what you will find is that once you know what is going on and can address it, she will be resilient. Having control over the situation helped my daughter greatly. I have found that this has made my daughter more resilient, more determined, and even more engaged in school. Every year, I have a chat with her teachers (she does not qualify for an IEP) and explain her learning style and where her strengths and weaknesses are and go from there. Its a day at a time and a school year at a time. I educate her teachers and they talk to me about what they see.

    You can do this. It was scary for me at first to TAKE ON the institution. But your child is worth it. AND the squeaky wheel gets the grease. My guess is that the teachers, the counselors, and the administration DO CARE. They are trying to be everything to everybody with all the crazy mandates. Get the testing done, and if it warrants, take it in to the School Psychologist or Special Education Coordinator and tell them what YOU WANT FOR YOUR CHILD.

    Good luck!
    -a mom who has been there

  11. Justin says:

    Hey, kid. We met ages ago at Fassler Hall. You might not remember me.

    I was a public school teacher for a long time. Here are my recommendations.

    First, go to the teachers she succeeded with in previous years and talk to them about that. What were they doing? How did that work?

    Second, visit the current classroom yourself. Watch how the teacher runs her class. See if she’s actually addressing your kid’s questions. Don’t interrupt. Just observe. Then have another conference and talk about what you saw.

    Third, and here’s the thing everyone needs to get, understand that school isn’t about learning. It’s about training. The purpose of public education today is to produce obedient workers who are comfortable with dress codes and conformity. If the kid learns something, that’s nice, too.

    Some folks think that’s cynical, but again, I was a teacher. I know what I’m talking about. If your kid doesn’t conform, she gets punished. If she fails a class, she get to try again. If she shows up out of dress code, she gets punished. If she doesn’t do her homework, she gets to try again. As long as she keeps her head down and doesn’t make any problems, she’s fine.

    I’ll point out that from your own story, you had to make the effort to find out your child was failing. The teacher, I take it, failed to notify you.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

    There is likely a test of some kind that your fourth grader has to pass at the end of the year. All, and I mean ALL, of her classroom efforts will be directed at passing this test. (I taught 5th grade math/science a while back. There was a math test, but no science test. Guess whose principal got upset if he started teaching science?) If her learning style and personality don’t fit what the school thinks the test will be asking for, she’ll struggle.

    Let’s be clear: the school is not at fault here. The general public is. We elected a failure of a congress – state and federal – that have never taught one class but think they know how to set the rules for the industry. The probable cause of your angst is your state legislature and your local school board. More than likely the teacher is doing all she can given the constraints they’ve forced her to work within.

    All of that said, you may want to consider pulling her out and homeschooling. There are so many wonderful resources available now, you’re child can get a first-class education at home at her own pace and in her own way. That’s actually true all the way through her B.A. degree depending on what she’s interested in studying.

    I hated homeschooling when I began teaching in the ’90′s. Now, I think it’s the future of quality education. Schools are going to keep getting underfunded and misregulated by governmental house slaves to business. Homeschooling is freeing and could actually accelerate your daughter’s education.

    Anyway, I wish you the best. Absolutely hate hearing about how kids who don’t quite fit are treated as if there’s something wrong with them. Your daughter isn’t broken. The school is.

    Good luck.

    ~Justin

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