This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free and Appropriate Public Education - NOT!


Thanks to the "No Child Left Behind Act", our children supposedly have a much better education, but as FosterAbba puts it in this post, that just isn't true for any of the kids in the US as compared to other countries. And the kids at the extremes are really not getting what they need.

We're just starting to look into a charter school for our really bright 14 year old daughter, Bob, and a different charter school for Kitty who in addition to being "emotionally disturbed," has ADHD and learning disabilities. Bear doesn't qualify for charter school because of his behavior issues.

We went the private school route, but couldn't afford it any more, and discovered that for Bob, she could finish school faster, but it wasn't a really great education, and for Kitty even though the school specialized in working with kids with attention issues, and they really helped her with finding and filling a lot of the gaps in her education, it was more focused on kids with Aspergers and they had no way to accommodate her learning disabilities.

Bear attends a special school for extremely emotionally disturbed youth, but he almost doesn't qualify because he's fairly stable... as long as he's in the rigidly structured, highly supervised special school. But it's aimed at kids who are unstable and so barely teaches the basics - so he's not really learning much... but at least he's not "left behind!" (that was very sarcastic by the way!).

We've discovered that "No Child Left Behind" doesn't mean that our son is being taught so he can catch up to his peers. It means he is given grades he doesn't deserve so he won't fail. When he fails the standardized testing (which they've modified to make easier), then they might give him a Summer school course, but it's not designed for emotionally disturbed kids (his behavior got him kicked out one Summer in the first week), or kids with learning issues (so it's too over his head and they tell us don't bother), or worse, he passed the class so he's told the Summer course is not for credit so he refuses to participate... and then they give him the test again (which he fails again of course because nothing's changed), and mark it as having "done all they can do"... and they pass him anyway. Every year. With no going back and fixing what

Both of my adopted children are in special ed classes (although no one calls them that anymore - they are "Applied" classes) and will graduate with regular high school diplomas, but we've been told that the diplomas don't mean they know what other high school graduates know. If they want a real high school education (especially if they want to go to a 4 year college) then they have to go to community/ junior college and take their core classes again. So much for a "free and appropriate public education."

We didn't discover this until the end of last school year, and we decided to use it in our conversations with Kitty about her unrealistic goal of going to Med. school. Her solution? Get back into regular ed classes.

Applied classes are small, usually 6 to 8 students. They are technically on grade level, but the kids are getting "core material." That means they get the same general concepts as regular ed, but not the details. So they learn that we have a solar system made up of planets, and they might learn the difference between planet and moons, but they would definitely not be learning about the atmosphere, what comets and Saturn's rings are made of, or why there is a debate about Pluto. (This is just an example by the way, I have no idea what they're really being taught about the Solar System - I just know that there are some concepts that as high school students I can't believe they've never heard of).

Kids are in Applied classes for a wide variety of reasons. So the teachers have to accommodate a lot of different things to get each child an appropriate education, and of course it still is focused toward bringing up the child who is farthest behind while the ones who "get it" wait. Kitty is bored a lot, and could probably attend regular ed classes with some accommodations for her learning disabilities, except for the fact that she is emotionally disturbed. She is easily upset, and when she is stressed, her skills drop to a much lower level (she's in 9th grade and we usually hear 2nd grade level under stress). Lots of students, drama, and chaos (such as you might find in a regular ed class of 35+ high school students) upsets and stresses out Kitty.

The problem is, that Kitty only sees that she's occasionally bored and wants to be in regular ed. She doesn't understand/ believe that she needs the Applied classes - and we're having the same problem with the school. They see a well-regulated, sweet child, because she saves all the rages and trauma for home. The few struggles they see they think of as normal, because for example, "normal" kids have some difficulty with getting homework done and turned in, but it's for totally different reasons, and the school doesn't get that.


The school doesn't think she can go to Med. school either, but they think she can do something in the "health field." The problem is that Kitty doesn't want to be a surgeon because she likes the field, but because it pays extremely well. She's not going to be happy with being a nurse or a med tech. It's an "all or nothing" thing, and by not being realistic with her, they are allowing her to live in her little world of delusion and we're going to end up with another child with unrealistic dreams and no real world job skills.

9 comments:

Lynn said...

Yeah. I'm not a fan of NCLB either!!! Especially now that I'm living in the state that invented it. The "teaching to the test" is obnoxious! And the amount of testing the kids have to partake in is over the top! I can't imagine what it's like for special needs kids. The school will do anything to keep their passing numbers up I'm sure. Groan!

Meg said...

I could not agree more. Public education in the US is one of this county's biggest embarrassments.

I think so many kids are better off just getting a GED at 16 and then going to community college. I have seen so many kids graduate high school with a diploma and they really know next to nothing. It's sad.

Miz Kizzle said...

Would it help if Kitty talked to someone who could explain that being a surgeon comes with a great deal of stress and hard work, intense competition and sky-high malpractice insurance rates, to name a few of the negatives?
Becoming a radiologist or a phlebotomist might be a better option, but they're still demanding, high-stress jobs -- just about anything in the medical field is.
If all she knows about career possibilities comes from watching TV she's going to be at a severe disadvantage. It helps to talk to someone who actually does the work and to go with them for a day or two and watch as they're doing their job.

marythemom said...

Miz K - I've told Kitty (as nicely as possible so as not to damage her self esteem) that she wouldn't like it and wouldn't be good at it. Kitty hears what she wants to hear. The fact that I'm usually the only one telling her this is a part of the problem too.

Mostly though it's explained best by remembering that Kitty is only about 6 years old in a lot of ways. Lots of 6 year olds want to be doctors, and they have the time for miracles and major changes to happen. We would probably never tell a 6 year old their dreams are unrealistic and they wouldn't understand/believe us even if we did.

The problem is that Kitty isn't really 6. She's running out of time to help her find a practical solution while she still has time and a "free" education.

We tried supporting a kid (Hubby's much younger brother) who wasn't ready, through community college and tech school and he flunked out, dropped out and messed around for years and has nothing to show for it. We can't afford that now (literally or figuratively).

Mary

Lisa said...

Hmmmm....no easy answers here either. My kids fall thru the cracks of NCLB time after time. It would be laughable if we had the luxury of time, but none of us do since school year after year keeps flying by and the gaps in their education just get wider. Our son told his counselor that his goal for adulthood was to be homeless. That was an unacceptable answer so she talked him into saying he wanted to be an infantryman (yeah, that'll happen with the 7 meds he's on...) because he'd just read a book about it. Then, his emotionally impaired classroom teacher told him he'd be good at graphic design because he told her he liked to do art ("doing art" to him is gluing pieces of notebook paper together to make a huge piece of paper - she didn't bother to find that out though) and "work" on computers (translation: my parents won't let me on the computer at home and I can't have Facebook or email since I make very poor decisions on my own so can I use YOUR computer?). I about fell out of my chair at the IEP when I heard that one. I mentioned that you needed to take MANY advanced math classes to go into that field and he immediately reverted to his "I'm going to grow up and be homeless" spiel again - to the chagrin of the teachers there who had to write that into his file. Apparently, they didn't want to actually put that down because it didn't look good - ya think? The saddest part is that my son thinks being homeless is do-able and just another "job description". He also stated that he would like to live in an apartment when he grows up (smiles all around the room) - I asked if he was willing to get a job and give his money to the person who owned the apt to live there and he shook his head no. I'm sorry but I am sick of listening to them sugar coat every single thing regarding my son's lack of education. He didn't get this way overnight. Either educate him or find him a JOB, otherwise their tax dollars are going to be supporting him forever.

Struggling to Stand said...

@Lisa - *their* tax dollars? What the government gives will in no way cut it, not to mention that someone has to do the paperwork to manage the nearly non-existant money. No, as I am finding out every day, the burden is still on the parents.
Mary already knows how I feel about the overall subject of education, especially in Texas. The schools FAILED my child by attempting to prepare her for a dumbed-down theorecital academically oritented career but never seeing her for who she is and trying to prepare her for LIFE.
And now my gifted 9-year-old is getting very worried about passing the %$#@$@#$ standardized testing that almost any non-developmentally-delayed nimrod can pass. Kids at both ends of the IQ range are cheated and hurt by the incredible short-sightedness of those who sign the laws in this state. (Hint: if you live here, vote for the other guys.)
OK, but as far as Kitty goes, most 6-year-olds have a clue that they don't want to do something that is going to require a LOT of work. Try to slide into your conversations with her tid-bits like "so-and-so had a 10 hour long surgery! I'd hate to have to stand that long. I wonder if they get to use the restroom?" and "so-and-so's appointment was cancelled today because her doctor had to wake up at 1 am to go work at the hospital ..." Oh! And stress how messy the job is! "Oh! The garbage disposal is backed up. Kitty! you need to learn how to stick your hands into gross places, so it is your job to clean it out!" Oh!Oh!Oh! So it therefore must always be her job to clean the toilet, because, you know, peoples insides smell pretty bad!
And then there is always telling her that any job that pays a lot of money means you have to work really, really hard. (Although, alas, the reverse isn't true.)

Struggling to Stand said...

@Lisa - *their* tax dollars? What the government gives will in no way cut it, not to mention that someone has to do the paperwork to manage the nearly non-existant money. No, as I am finding out every day, the burden is still on the parents.
Mary already knows how I feel about the overall subject of education, especially in Texas. The schools FAILED my child by attempting to prepare her for a dumbed-down theorecital academically oritented career but never seeing her for who she is and trying to prepare her for LIFE.
And now my gifted 9-year-old is getting very worried about passing the %$#@$@#$ standardized testing that almost any non-developmentally-delayed nimrod can pass. Kids at both ends of the IQ range are cheated and hurt by the incredible short-sightedness of those who sign the laws in this state. (Hint: if you live here, vote for the other guys.)
OK, but as far as Kitty goes, most 6-year-olds have a clue that they don't want to do something that is going to require a LOT of work. Try to slide into your conversations with her tid-bits like "so-and-so had a 10 hour long surgery! I'd hate to have to stand that long. I wonder if they get to use the restroom?" and "so-and-so's appointment was cancelled today because her doctor had to wake up at 1 am to go work at the hospital ..." Oh! And stress how messy the job is! "Oh! The garbage disposal is backed up. Kitty! you need to learn how to stick your hands into gross places, so it is your job to clean it out!" Oh!Oh!Oh! So it therefore must always be her job to clean the toilet, because, you know, peoples insides smell pretty bad!
And then there is always telling her that any job that pays a lot of money means you have to work really, really hard. (Although, alas, the reverse isn't true.)

Struggling to Stand said...

@Lisa - *their* tax dollars? What the government gives will in no way cut it, not to mention that someone has to do the paperwork to manage the nearly non-existant money. No, as I am finding out every day, the burden is still on the parents.
Mary already knows how I feel about the overall subject of education, especially in Texas. The schools FAILED my child by attempting to prepare her for a dumbed-down theorecital academically oritented career but never seeing her for who she is and trying to prepare her for LIFE.
And now my gifted 9-year-old is getting very worried about passing the %$#@$@#$ standardized testing that almost any non-developmentally-delayed nimrod can pass. Kids at both ends of the IQ range are cheated and hurt by the incredible short-sightedness of those who sign the laws in this state. (Hint: if you live here, vote for the other guys.)
OK, but as far as Kitty goes, most 6-year-olds have a clue that they don't want to do something that is going to require a LOT of work. Try to slide into your conversations with her tid-bits like "so-and-so had a 10 hour long surgery! I'd hate to have to stand that long. I wonder if they get to use the restroom?" and "so-and-so's appointment was cancelled today because her doctor had to wake up at 1 am to go work at the hospital ..." Oh! And stress how messy the job is! "Oh! The garbage disposal is backed up. Kitty! you need to learn how to stick your hands into gross places, so it is your job to clean it out!" Oh!Oh!Oh! So it therefore must always be her job to clean the toilet, because, you know, peoples insides smell pretty bad!
And then there is always telling her that any job that pays a lot of money means you have to work really, really hard. (Although, alas, the reverse isn't true.)

Struggling to Stand said...

Clearly, the state legislators were reading my comment and tried to make it go away by giving me an error saying it couldn't post, but the joke is on them because I ended up posting it 3 times.