The 2014 school year has proven to be ripe with challenges for me to help the teachers help my daughter succeed in school. The educational system is beyond confusing to me as a parent, and sometimes I feel as though the curriculum and rules are changing so fast that even the teachers seem a little exacerbated. The Flagler County School teachers have, for the most part, been ever eager to cultivate an encouraging educational environment, but some of the challenges my daughter faces seem beyond the control of our local school staff as well as beyond the scope of my involvement as a parent.
Budget Cuts Affect Student Alertness
We live about 30 minutes further from the school than a majority of the students in our school district, so the transportation issues she faces prove to be a minority issue for the school. There is little the school can do to change the fact that she must be at the bus stop at 6:18 in the morning, nor the fact that she gets home from school an hour and a half after school lets out. The school provides breakfasts for all the students; however, her bus does not get to the school in time for her or her bus-mates to get breakfast at school every day. She’s been listless in school, and her most important classes are at the beginning of the school day. By the time she gets home from school, she’s exhausted and wants to go back to bed, making the home-work choreography a little less than spectacular. With studies reporting the benefits of later school start times for adolescents with regard to student achievement, budget cuts that require earlier start times more adversely affect students with longer rides to schools.
Kids Don’t Have Books
In some classes, students have what is called “tech-books,” which are digital print books often accessible online; however, in many of my daughter’s classes, she only uses notes and lectures to get her information: there are no books. My middle school kid is not yet a great note taker. I never ever was, but luckily, I knew how to make the best use of my textbooks to ramp up a study session if necessary. It’s difficult for me as a parent to connect to what my child is learning in school through oftentimes disorganized notes (or non-existent notes). I don’t understand what she’s learning nor can I quiz her or generate curiosity for her current lesson plans. A physical book would be helpful to me as a parent attempting to immerse myself into my child’s education.
It’s all about the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test)
My daughter says it herself, “We’ve been preparing for the FCAT all year long,” though she seems overly stressed in the days leading up to the FCAT. One Florida teacher writes about her night terrors leading up to FCAT season in an article for FlaglerLive.com, and she says, “If FCAT evokes such a reaction in me, imagine what it does to students.” I remember taking standardized tests in school when I was in middle and high school; however, the teachers didn’t mention the tests save for a few weeks before we took them.
My daughter once came to me with a math worksheet saying, “I don’t know how to do this,” to which I can only imagine she either detached in class or forgot to ask the teacher for help. It’s not the teacher’s fault that my kid zones out into wonderland sometimes. It’s also a little normal for middle school kids to be a little aloof at times. I couldn’t help my daughter. I tried looking stuff up online to help her but came up empty. Her math teacher sent me links in the past to all the materials they learn in class, but the material is overwhelming. There’s no, “Right now we’re working on orders of operation.” It’s difficult to navigate the educational material that feels specifically aligned to the Sunshine State standards for the purpose of passing the FCAT.
The FCAT feels like the golden egg of Florida education. The career viability of students as well as of teachers hinges on the success of the FCAT. For the past ten years, one Florida elementary school has been dancing an unusual routine in the minutes leading up to the FCAT. Creel Elementary School in Melbourne, Florida has been giving students trail mix and three tablespoons of Mountain Dew to freshen the mental acuity of their students before taking the FCAT. Due to some complaints, the school is stopping the practice of caffeinating their students before the test; however, the unusual practice speaks to the pressure teachers and students face in attempting to perform as well as possible on the FCAT.