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Super dumb letter went to homeschool parents in Little Rock

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:01
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No matter how you justify this letter (need more students/money for the school district, think that some HS parents might be regretting their decision so you offer an olive branch, annual requirement to reach out to all non-attending school aged children etc.) this letter is a fail. The ineptitude at appearing open minded about a parent’s decision to home school in the first paragraph/sentence is stunning. The second paragraph removes any doubt that Mr. Poore is looking solidly down his nose at home schoolers. The implication that a group of public employees could help develop the whole child, whereas a parent could not, is so absurd that it almost feels like this superintendent went to a seminar on SEL and whole child development and decided to sprinkle those words into his letter, even though he didn’t really understand what they meant.

One parent, who previously had children in LRSD, has penned a wonderful open letter response to Mr. Poore that we share below with her permission.

My Open Letter to Mr. Poore of LRSD:

Dear Mr. Poore,

I once enrolled my oldest child in the LRSD. It was her Pre-K year and we attended MLK. I loved the atmosphere, her teacher and the principal, Mr. Harris. It was also close to work which was convenient. We left the following year because we were on a M to M transfer and my younger son, one year behind her, did not get chosen in the lottery. I was also frustrated by the end of the year that I was being told what I could, and could not, put in a lunch for my girl and an out of control assistant teacher was wreaking havoc in her classroom. She was a dreadful, scary woman and it should not have been so hard for Harris to fire her. Further, the after school care was riotous and miserable with all students hanging out with nothing to do in the cafeteria.

We attended our local district nearby for elementary school. We loved most of our teachers and things were mostly fine…except for when my kindergartener heard about “blow jobs” on the playground. There was also the time that my student placed a hand on another student’s leg while sitting on the curb at recess in an effort to get their attention and ask them to play. The principal considered it inappropriate touch and lectured my 3rd grader on sexual harassment without my presence in the room. Their fingerprints were digitally recorded and used for months in the media center without notification or permission from me. I was told this was happening in LRSD in cafeterias as well in 2014. Oh, and then there was the time that they made my 3rd grader make a collect call to me at work from the principal’s office, threatening to withhold her lunch unless I left work and went up there to pay, because the account was overdrawn by ten dollars.

Common Core came along and set my student behind in math while simultaneously ruining his love for school. Along came silent lunches where I was shushed by a lunch lady, using a megaphone, because I was visiting with my child. The lunches were also reduced to 15-20 min with just as little for recess.

Social Justice disguised as history lessons started to come home and my kids began to report counseling sessions in class regarding topics that should be handled at home. Our beloved teachers, frustrated by top down draconian controls, started leaving in droves. Truancy controls resulted in my students being punished for my tardiness. I was threatened with court because we went on vacation, taking more than 7 days without a physician note,even though both were good students academically and had good attendance. I did not have the freedom to keep my feverish child home without being forced to go to the doctor and running up medical bills. At 4th and 5th grade our family had enough and we withdrew.

I know this was not your district but many of these issues plague LRSD as well- I hear from parents all the time in LRSD. Most people think I pulled my children out just because of common core. The reality is that I pulled them out for many reasons and common core was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I share all of this to say that I homeschool now and I was taken aback by your letter to homeschoolers in LRSD. If I may, I’d like to give you some insight on how we homeschoolers are wired.

Aside from being illegal, the letter came across as condescending. I assure you that the standards and curricula that we use are far more “Rigorous” than your draconian and minimalistic common core package. I am happy to share it with you anytime. For instance, as part of her blue book final exam in 7th grade, my oldest completed a drawing, from memory, of the entire world, labeling countries, capitols and bodies of water. She translates Latin and can now read and write 2 grade levels above her station. Our brand of rigor is why homeschoolers consistently outscored public school back when we tested for the state.

As you may infer from the events mentioned above, “Rigor” is only part of the reason that I and so many others left our public school districts. The homeschool numbers are increasing quickly around the state because these problems plaque many districts.

You should probably know that in general homeschool parents reject a state approved “whole child” approach- just stick to the 3 Rs. We like flexibility in our schedules and we want our kids to have plenty of time to eat, rest and play. Most of us are not opposed to testing but would limit it to once per year. We do not approve of data collection; certainly not biometrics and those school based clinics are creepy.

We believe in a small teacher to student ratio and we tend to prefer classic methods of teaching. We want our kids to learn grammar, real history, geography and good old fashioned math. We could care less about STEM or shiny chrome books and would like to see a return to the vocational trades in high school. We want administrators that respect our teachers. We want our Superintendents to send letters that are grammatically correct.

We prefer the buildings be in good repair. We do not want to be obligated to bring items like Kleenex or copy paper—If I cannot count on you to manage your money and take care of an inanimate building, how am I supposed to entrust you with my little humans?

If you really want to recruit high performing homeschoolers to LRSD, you will need to understand them first, recognize what plagues your district second, and third, offer something that we cannot give our kids. That letter did not tell us what you have to offer. It assumed a false narrative that LRSD is better by default and homeschool parents laughed in the face of the assumption. Perhaps a letter asking them to share why they left would have been more productive?

I do hope that LRSD can rise above the damage that was done prior to your arrival and I hope this letter provides some insight into how you might improve the district in order to entice homeschoolers. It’s a long shot, though. As homeschoolers we have advantages that the state just cannot, and quite frankly should not, provide.

Do whatever you can to keep your good teachers and keep them happy. The evaluations don’t mean anything. If you want to know who the great teachers are, ask the parents.

Best of luck,

Karen Lamoreaux
The Common Core Mom

Basic skills, that are supposedly being taught to students in public schools, are lacking in the Superintendent’s letter: attention to grammar, sentence variety, knowledge of your target audience, providing concrete examples to support your thesis, empathy. This is hardly a selling point for the LRSD. One of Karen’s points, that a more productive letter would have asked parents to share why they chose to home school, actually would have provided the district with useful data to adjust their policies in order to draw home schoolers back to the district.  The absence of such a request demonstrates what is true for most districts. They don’t want data which doesn’t support their existing policy assumptions. They really aren’t interested in listening to parents or changing how they do business in response to the community’s needs. Too bad. Their loss. Some of Little Rock’s best a brightest will continue to be provided an excellent education outside of their control.

The letter instead seems to reflect the thinking of the man credited with creating modern public education.

dewey2

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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