Saturday, February 18, 2012

Open Letter: Mike Horton

written by: Mike Horton of Elkhorn, NE

The more I hear from everyone, the more I wonder if the problem goes beyond the unfortunate intrusiveness of the law and legislators' beliefs that they know best, and has exposed another even more subtle, yet insidious agenda on the part of public education. If one talks to teachers, and I have, they seem far less enthusiastic in their support for this law. 

Every administrator I have talked to or heard comment on it, thinks this is the best thing since dry erase boards. One must ask the question "Why?" All we hear, and what was reinforced continually when I was a public school teacher, what is best for the students should be the goal. How does removing the distinction between an excused and unexcused absence do that? 

I would think that the school districts would hate being restricted in this way. So logically, there must be a reason that they support this. Despite what they say about kids needing to be in school and how important that is for test scores, etc., this somehow feels disingenuous. I come back to the question as to what would happen if my daughter decided to quit doing any work, and actively decided to fail all her classes. Would the school report me to the authorities? If so, on what bases? As far as I know we do not have any legislative mandate on minimum performance, but is that the next step? 

I contend that nothing would happen other than the school would fall back to whatever prescribed protocol they have for students who fail. In discussing this with teachers across the greater Omaha area whom I am acquainted with, I have heard agreement with my belief that the education community's complete lack of support on this issue is the result of financial motivations. 

If this is not the case, I challenge Dr. Breed or any other school district's superintendent to justify to me how having a law designed to assist children with issues that have a negative impact on attendance and or academic performance is served one iota by punishing a single child who doesn't fall into the aforementioned group. How does distinguishing excused from unexcused prevent the authorities from assisting the population intended? 

If they want to trot out "Parents are lying to the schools" argument, I then challenge them to prove that. Anyone actually think they can do that? And let's say for the sake of the argument that they can. Would not discovered instances of this be then classified as non-excused? The authorities could then take whatever appropriate action is reasonable and prudent. If this is truly about "Truancy" then let's adopt a strict law. 

Personally, as a former teacher, if a child has more than 5-10 UNEXCUSED absences in a school year, is not performing adequately academically, and or there is a lack of cooperation and communication from the parents, then intervention is probably warranted. If those conditions are not present, however, then what is the schools' concern? In closing, this situation seem to be similar to organized public education's lack of support for teacher accountability and or school choice. 

I can not speak for other school districts, but I can attest that in Elkhorn, if you try to deviate from their prescribed methodology, you are fought every step of the way and in some cases may find yourself in a more adversarial relationship with your children's educators instead of a cooperative one.

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