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Old 10-17-2012, 06:13 AM   #31
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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I just noticed you are in Canada.
It sounds like a big school so you must be in a city. What about other schools with other programs? He's probably too late for early Fr Imm (I know you can start in Gr1 but I don't think Gr 2) but late Imm starts in gr 6, Mandarin Immersion, a fine arts school, Montessori etc... your district must have similar programs.
I'm the OPs sister. It is a city, but not an overly large one. We have 3 regular elementary schools that are jam packed full. 2 of them are k-8 and one is k-4. No French Immersion, or Montessori, or anything else.

Yesterday Rowan was telling us that everything was too easy. He can't even take books in his book bag that are at his level. Apparently after finishing his math he asked if he could have some harder work, but the teacher said no. Same with spelling. He asked for harder words, but she wouldn't give him any.

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Old 10-17-2012, 06:21 AM   #32
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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Originally Posted by isabelsmummy View Post
I just noticed you are in Canada.
It sounds like a big school so you must be in a city. What about other schools with other programs? He's probably too late for early Fr Imm (I know you can start in Gr1 but I don't think Gr 2) but late Imm starts in gr 6, Mandarin Immersion, a fine arts school, Montessori etc... your district must have similar programs.
Actually, I live in a tiny city of around 11,000 people. We have one K-4, two K-8, one 5-8, and one massive 9-12. Starting next fall there will be a new high school added, and possibly another middle school. There is no French Immersion in our town, though there is one just 10 minutes away in the next town, and I could drive him there. No Montessori, or anything else.
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Old 10-18-2012, 06:57 PM   #33
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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Actually, I live in a tiny city of around 11,000 people. We have one K-4, two K-8, one 5-8, and one massive 9-12. Starting next fall there will be a new high school added, and possibly another middle school. There is no French Immersion in our town, though there is one just 10 minutes away in the next town, and I could drive him there. No Montessori, or anything else.
I agree with another poster who mentioned she thought the response sounded genuine. It seems like she's not as worried about your son specifically because her job is to worry about the entire class. If she sees each child being challened in something, that's an accomplishment for someone who's job it is to educate 20 or more kids. Personally from what you say, I would try to convince your dh to allow you a trial run this year, and have him placed in the 3-4 class next year if it doesn't work out. OR I would drive the 10 minutes to the French Immersion school. I went to French schools in Canada for several years and it was an absolutely wonderful experience.
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Old 10-19-2012, 01:15 AM   #34
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Re: Public School Frustrations

You live in a town of 11 000 people that has 4.5 classes of grade 2's in just one school? You guys have a lot of kids!!!

I'd look into the Fr Imm. Normally Gr1 is the last admission for early immersion because the teachers stop speaking English usually at Christmas of Gr1 but they might be willing to work with you. He'd have to be really willing though. Being in a class where you don't know what teacher is saying wouldn't be easy.

And then there is the truth no one wants to admit - the Fr Imm classes have less kids with learning difficulties so they will tend to have a smaller spread of abilities.
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Old 10-19-2012, 08:32 AM   #35
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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I'm the OPs sister. It is a city, but not an overly large one. We have 3 regular elementary schools that are jam packed full. 2 of them are k-8 and one is k-4. No French Immersion, or Montessori, or anything else.

Yesterday Rowan was telling us that everything was too easy. He can't even take books in his book bag that are at his level. Apparently after finishing his math he asked if he could have some harder work, but the teacher said no. Same with spelling. He asked for harder words, but she wouldn't give him any.
My kids are in public school and I have had some experience with this so I thought I might point out a couple of things that haven't really been discussed here.

1) In second grade, spelling words aren't just about being able to spell them correctly. I clearly remember my now 5th grader taking "dictation tests" where the students were required to take down entire sentences as a test. They also had to write the words in a sentence as classwork. All of that together is far more challenging than just writing the single word correctly.

2) Reading level here is done according to fluency. Even though students CAN read at higher levels, the requirement is for the student to become completely fluent at their fluency level before moving up. If they stop and have to sound out/think about a word, it is not considered fluent. If they don't use proper inflection for punctuation, it is not considered fluent. They did assess them frequently so they moved up through levels quickly. I would ask about the reading level and how it is determined and why.
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Old 10-19-2012, 08:50 AM   #36
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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2) Reading level here is done according to fluency. Even though students CAN read at higher levels, the requirement is for the student to become completely fluent at their fluency level before moving up. If they stop and have to sound out/think about a word, it is not considered fluent. If they don't use proper inflection for punctuation, it is not considered fluent. They did assess them frequently so they moved up through levels quickly. I would ask about the reading level and how it is determined and why.
I'm not sure exactly how the reading levels work here, as I'm homeschooling my kids. What Rowan said was that he is supposed to be at level 28, but they only let him take books that are level 21. He is really an excellent reader.
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Old 10-19-2012, 09:20 AM   #37
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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I'm not sure exactly how the reading levels work here, as I'm homeschooling my kids. What Rowan said was that he is supposed to be at level 28, but they only let him take books that are level 21. He is really an excellent reader.
I'm sure he is an excellent reader! I would definitely talk to the teacher about it and find out if he has misunderstood something or if there is a supply issue etc. I could totally see my eldest thinking that if he could read a book then that should be his level rather than where he is assessed to be.
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Old 10-21-2012, 12:00 AM   #38
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Re: Public School Frustrations

As far as the reading levels go, there are instructional reading levels and independent reading levels, so maybe he's at a 28 for instructional level but the teacher wants the kids to only take home books that are at their independent level??? Just taking a guess here. We're a homeschooling family, but my husband is a public school elementary teacher (and I used to be pre-kids). He occasionally tests our kids to determine their "level" and there can be a big difference between what I think their reading level is and what their actual level is when it's followed up with comprehension questions, including higher-level thinking skills.

Anyways, I completely understand your concerns, and it is one of the big reasons that we homeschool--so that I can individualize the education of each of my children. I do feel like the teacher gave a sincere, well thought-out response to your e-mail and it is just not blowing it off. But from personal experience, she probably wishes she could do so much more for Rowan but with time constraints, it's very difficult. I know it sounds like it should be simple to give him harder words, harder math assignments, etc. but it all adds up. 10 minutes here for one child's math, 10 minutes there for another child's reading, etc. easily adds up to hours spent planning instruction for kids every night. I know because I've been there and my husband's been there. Especially in the early grades, there's a huge range of abilities, and I used to lose sleep at night (or sleep very fitfully) worrying that certain kids just weren't catching on to reading and writing, or other kids were bored. I had a couple students who were very advanced and I felt so badly that I couldn't spend more time challenging them, but there simply just weren't enough hours in the day (and night!) to do all the planning. My husband feels the same way. Of course, teachers do have to make the effort--that is their job, and nowadays it is simply not acceptable for teachers to just "teach to the average." Differentiating/individualizing instruction is absolutely necessary, but it can be taking place orally during class (e.g. asking different levels of questions to different kids) and in other ways that aren't always super obvious to the parents. Most schools also have resource teachers available who are able to occasionally work with higher students and pull them out for special enrichment, so maybe check into that??

In regards to the spelling, you may want to nicely ask the teacher what curriculum is being used and what the philosophy of the program is. It's hard to simply compare words with other 2nd grade parents because there are so many different programs out there and they have different philosophies. Some use word families, others (it sounds like yours does) have all of the words arranged according to how frequently they are used in the English language and then it's broken down by groups according to grade level. 1st graders learn the first 50 most frequently used words, 2nd graders learn the next 75 most frequently used words, etc. So when I was teaching fourth grade, the spelling list for a week may have the words "ball" and "necessary", all on the same list! It was kind of weird, but a lot of other skills were integrated into the spelling lessons (e.g. synonyms, antonyms, vowel patterns, etc.)

It does seem strange that he has "in" and "and" and other very common words though. Maybe they're doing a review of all of last year's words before moving on?? A lot of teachers do incorporate "personal" or "challenge" words though, so it would definitely be reaonable to ask her again if that's a possibility.

Ideally, your husband would agree to homeschooling! It sounds like your little guy would do well with it!

Last edited by dolphingirl; 10-21-2012 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:58 AM   #39
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Re: Public School Frustrations

You will always be better able to cater to your son's education needs....1 You know him better, you are his mother. 2 You will never have to teach twenty plus kids. That said, what do you want out of school. Homeschooling is a LOT of work and your son will loose the friends and social system built into school. You loose the time you have free or alone with your smaller child/ren. If he likes school, do you value his desire to do school, or the content of his second grade education. Younger grades are often, in both the homeschool and public school community, viewed as a time to cement the basics of reading and writing (phonics and understanding written word) and basic arithmetic, though there are challenge second grade homeschool curriculum you could find and use. What are your goals for him this year? What are the needs of the rest of your family? (I hs with an 18 month old and work around ten hours a week, so I am not saying these are immediate disqualifications for homeschool, only logistical factors you would have to take into consideration.)

Last edited by sunflower83b; 10-26-2012 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 10-26-2012, 03:46 PM   #40
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Re: Public School Frustrations

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I just checked and my son's words this week are:
pack, lack, tack, rack, black, but, not, what, all, words, grass, chat, strap, clapping.
Just thought you may like another example of 1st grade words.
I hope she gets your point that your son isn't being challenged and that it could turn into other classroom issues.
I don't understand weekly spelling list at all, and wouldn't get worked up about it if it were me. Look at the words highlighted above. What is the point of having a child memorize the spelling of those words? First off, they are NOT "high frequency words" that a Grade 1 child will encounter often in their daily reading and writing, and secondly, it would be FAR more effective for the teacher to focus on the ACK word family during meaningful in class lessons rather than try and memorize every word possibly made with it. Teaching spelling is far more effective in the context of reading or writing than having children memorize word lists. I totally DON'T get it

That said, TBH, I kinda found your letter to the teacher a bit condescending and if I were the teacher, I would have been put off by it. I think her response was fine and she is attempting to reassure you in the kindest way she can.

Teachers should not be using a per-prescribed set of "Grade 2" words in classroom instruction. Any word lists taught should be chosen based on the teacher's observation of class needs (words she observes to be frequently misspelled). So, likely, that is why she's chosen them. Based on her email to you, I would assume that she is also using those words in word family instruction (ie. She has taught "it" and that words like sit, fit, bit, lit, etc can all be made using that word and now no longer need to be memorized themselves). She should be testing them on weather they can internalize the spelling pattern and use it to grow other words.

If you are still not satisfied with her answer, I would arrange a meeting in person and see if perhaps she can test him on his own set of words that are up to your standards, each week. Perhaps you could choose the Dolch Grade 2, and 3 lists, them test him to see which he doesn't know, and have him choose 5 to learn each week in addition to the class' list.

JM
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