Friday, April 1, 2011

Who is Really Failing our Students? The Teachers or the System?

My family's experience with the Pinellas County school system, a number of years ago, left several indelible feelings with me, all negative. I had no idea the impact it had on my daughter.

It was several years after my daughter received her master's degree. She was expecting her second child, the first, a son was three, pushing four, and nearing preschool age. She called from her office in Atlanta and started the conversation with a sentence that no parent likes to hear, "I've got something I need to talk to you about". Taking a deep breath I mumbled the typical response "What's that"?

She proceeded to tell me she was giving up the career and going home to be a stay at home mom and raise her children. Pure relief on my part, but then there was this. She said "I have decided to home school my kids". "Why home school?". I Asked. I'll never forget the response. She said. "My experience in the public school system there in St. Petersburg was so bad and left such a deeply negative impression on me about school and public education, that I will never take that chance with my children."

We chatted a bit more about the socialization issue and isolation of home schoolers and the conversation ended. I remember I sat there stunned. I never had thought about how the consequences of the educational process, the business of education, might affect the student's long term view of public education. It occurred to me that this school system was failing many of its students on a number of levels. Looking at FCAT scores, dropout rates and graduation percentages it would appear not much has changed.

There are now four children in my daughter's household. Two in college, another soon to follow and the youngest well on her way. All totally home schooled. Realizing the problems with home schooling, she developed an outside the home program that now serves over 150 home schooled children providing that needed socialization and academic access to arts, music and science programs that are often difficult for home schoolers to provide. I am not particularly an advocate of home schooling. I think it can bring children as many problems as it solves. My daughter and I have had many discussions about the subject.

What happens to others who are turned off by school system? Could it be today's dropout rate is influenced as much by the parent's perception of the school system as it is the attitude of the student? The point is if the public school system in this County is so poorly run that it inspires this kind of reaction why hasn't it been fixed? How many students have dropped out or been turned off on education by what goes on as opposed to what is taught?

Those were the questions almost 30 years ago and they persist today. Why has the Pinellas County school system found it so difficult to get on track and stay there ?

Some final thoughts Sunday.

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