Any public school teachers/parents


I wonder if teachers or parents of kids in public schools have an impression that there are certain policies that they can put their finger on, which are damaging the education that the school delivers.

Example: The district in which I teach advances kids through middle school irrespective of their readiness for the next grade. This is not uncommon, yet I wonder if the public (parents) are starkly aware of this hard-and-fast policy, and its damage to learning.

Others: -calculators are given out in the early grades as a matter of course

-there’s no policy in high school about food in the classroom; teachers do their own thing, which typically means that any food/drink is allowed

-homework is no part of the lesson plan for many teachers

-headphones are often permitted in the classroom, although the school recently officially banned them

My underlying questions: to what extent would problematic conditions persist if the public were very aware? are parents by-and-large unaware of such day-to-day fundamentals? how the heck can they be made aware?



I don’t think most public school parents would care that their young children are given calculators or that their teens may eat in class or wear headphones. I think most of them would be surprised by the amount of politics that go on at the administrative level and above that they never hear about.


Amazingly enough, there are actual real live intelligent, informed, involved parents of public schooled children. They outnumber the ignorant, uninvolved, uncaring parents by far in every school district we have been involved with.

Calculators in class, in 11 years of public school, my son has had one year when calculators were part of the class. With the business world today, when these children enter the work force they will be using calculators/computers. Teaching them to use this tool was part of one class.

Food in a class room - I’ve never seen that permitted, excpet for kids birthday cookies or something in grade school. Actually, if I have a cup of coffee and a munchie, it might help me focus on study. Don’t see where this is a cause for concern :shrug:

Headphones - the only time I’ve seen it permitted was in a class at the Community College.

If you are in a district with problems, work to make it better.


As a teacher, I find that the over-critical, ‘in-your-face’, fault finding parents cause more damage to their children’s education than the rules that shouldn’t be. However, there are some policies that, if it were up to me, I would want changed. Examples are
*]the age at which our kids start formal schooling as opposed to learning through play
*]the inclusion policies that allow parents to make wrong choices for their kids school placements causing their kids to be too distressed to work and the rest of the class to disrupted to work
*]some schools I have taught in have done away with discipline in favour of positive reinforcement. Kids need to learn that all actions have consequences - some good, some bad.[/LIST]


From a teacher’s observations: food is a problem, it makes a mess and distracts students. Not to mention it is not uncommon for kids to sneak alcohol in their soda, coffee, or juice. (Don’t think this problem doesn’t exist in private schools, it does.)

The schools I’ve been in allow students to have clear water bottles with water only, during the warmer months.


That one has been par for the course in all but one of the schools that my kids attended. I begged to have my middle child repeat grade 7 as he was in no way ready for grade 8, his average having been brought up by phys-ed & music. No go; they told me it would be bad for his self-esteem. Right, self-esteem. Where would his self-esteem be next September when he couldn’t do the work they threw at him? Even with a tutor after school he struggled for the next two years.

Then we moved and when we put all the facts in front of him he opted to repeat grade 9 in the new school. Best decision he ever made. He graduated from high school with honors.

My teacher friend tells me how at the end of the year there is a conference in her school where all the teachers gather to go over the marks of the weakest students looking for any extra points they can give them to bring them up to a PASS. Being held back would happen with only the the very weakest of students and even then the parents would have to agree.

Now the kids are evaluated put on different ‘pathways’. Each pathway has different objectives, designed to ensure that most kids can meet them.


I make no claims to the contrary. There are many parents who are intelligent, informed, and involved who decide that public school is the best place for their children. If others have made you feel otherwise, I apologize.

They outnumber the ignorant, uninvolved, uncaring parents by far in every school district we have been involved with.

That has not been my experience, especially in the higher grades.


Reputable highschool in my city sometimes have a habit of keeping grades low. I don’t like that because it’s artificial negative motivation. If the whole classroom fails, I tend to think the teacher needs to do his homework better, not the students. I don’t like when teachers dispute doctors’ leaves, either, because they are not medical professionals, and imposing quotas seems to make a statement rather than serve any good.

Sometimes I also think the fact that often the weaker kid or the provoked one gets blamed for the fight more than the bully, may be indicative of a subconscious tendency on the part of the school to silence down voices suggesting there’s a problem to deal with - it’s always easier to punish the weaker or the more peaceable kid.

But this is my personal negative experience. My younger brother has seen much of the same, although I don’t know to what extent.


Our county does not like to hold kids back. If the do, it’s only once. The second time around, students pass whether they are ready or not.

The grading scale for Math is dummed down. A kid can earn a 50% on a test, yet the ‘score’ is a 65 and they pass.

Teachers have a ‘pacing guide’ that tells them exactly what to teach every day of the school year. There are a few days built in for review. If the kids don’t understand the material, too bad. The teacher has to move on when the pacing guide says so.


They don’t make kids memorize math facts - addition facts, multiplication tables etc.

I work w/ way too many kids who are still counting on their fingers and can’t factor or figure common denominators because they don’t have tables memorized.

Funny thing is, when I mention it to the parents, they all agree- kids should memorize these things. Do the parents then make their kids do it outside of school? I haven’t met one yet who did.
(not saying such parents don’t exist, I just haven’t met them yet)


I don’t see the problem with any of these policies. What works in one classroom might not work in another. Calculators are necessary in many types of math. Homework may be pointless and unnecessary in a subject. Some teachers may want to give their students snacks for whatever reason. I was allowed to listen to my ipod in my Intro to Broadcast Journalism class because he said that the business required us to multi-task. I think the important thing is that each student feels safe and is able to learn without distraction.


They also don’t emphasize grammar any more. It is all literature in the upper grades.

Reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic seem to be swept under the rug in many places.


All well and good but kids should have mastered how to add, subtract, multiply and divide before calculators are introduced. And don’t get me started about the number of people who graduate without the basic ability to make change without a cash register or calculator.


I agree with you when it comes to teaching young kids basic math, but my high school math teacher would often let us use calculators for multiplication, addition, and subtraction because it saved us a lot of time and allowed us to do the more advanced stuff.


Obviously high school math is another matter. A calculator then is no different from the slide rule of my day: it won’t help if you don’t know how to do the problem in the first place. I wouldn’t have done my recent bookkeeping exams without a calculator, it would have been too time consuming, but again, if I hadn’t known how to do the work no amount of punching numbers on the calculator would have helped.


Grateful once again for our excellent public school district. No calculators until algebra and then it’s a graphing calculator. No headphones. In fact, no electronics (phones, ipods, etc) in the classroom. Children are not ‘social advanced’ if they can’t do the required work. We have ‘alternative’ programs within regular high schools for those kids who are best served by learing a practical skill (auto repair, CNA, restrurant work) that they can apply directly out of high school. There are several ‘alternative’ schools for those kids recovering from substance abuse or other issues. But we also have one of the highest graduation rates and percentage of kids going to good universities.


I think it depends on the district… many schools have harsh standardized testing which does not allow for “social advancement”… if testing shows a deficiency, then they should have to repeat the grade…

As for calculators… again, testing should weed through this problem. They’re a wonderful tool, but can only be a crutch for as long as the teacher allows. If it’s a “basic math” class, then clearly the students need to pass tests without calculators. Advanced math is about methodology and proofs… calculators can assist in those areas without disturbing the fundamental lessons of the class.

Food in the classroom… depends on the age and the class. It never bothered me (we had food in class in high school)… :shrug:

Headphones… depends on the class again… if the students are asked to do math exercises on their own, then headphones may help one student concentrate! I know I always was able to retain more of what I read for my literature classes if I listened to classical music. It’s funny… I still have “music memories” of the books I read in high school if I hear a particular piece on the radio! :slight_smile:


I’m not a parent, but I’m a person who graduated from public high school last year.

One of the worst things about public school was the standardized testing. The history test was so easy that I finished in 30 minutes or less and missed two questions. (This was the test you had to pass to graduate from public high school.) That wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have left afterwards, but I had to sit in the room for TWO HOURS doing NOTHING AT ALL afterwards. Reading would have been distracting to the other students, apparently. We were told to sleep after the test. We couldn’t do anything besides that until everyone finished their test.

My school didn’t allow cell phones, headphones, etc. but not all the teachers enforced that rule. This was annoying when students would be playing their music so loud that you could hear it in the room – it sounds SO BAD for one thing, plus it’s distracting.

I also had a big problem with some teachers allowing students to pull their grades up so that they could pass. The specific class I’m thinking of was ridiculously easy – she would give us an eight question exercise, say “study this for the test,” give it to us FOR THE TEST, and people still failed. Yet almost no one failed when it came to report cards! If people just aren’t doing their work, they should fail. If they’re trying and just can’t do it, they should go to a lower level (my school had two or three levels of most classes – regular, pre-AP/honors, and AP) or just not take the class. That is why I didn’t take precal or physics – because I knew I wouldn’t need it later (I’m majoring in German and Theology) and I knew it would be hard for me to pass them.

My parents knew about all of this because I told them. However, if you have a student who is failing because he was stupid and didn’t do his work, his parents won’t know because he’s not about to tell them and that report card said he passed. If you have a kid who listens to music and texts in class all the time, her parents aren’t going to know the rules aren’t enforced. Parents know about standardized testing, but not necessarily about the enforced inactivity afterwards if you happen to finish early. I think it really depends on the relationship between parents and kids. The people inside the school putting out the information about these things may not know exactly what’s going on themselves.


The practice of promoting students throughout middle school, irrespective of their readiness for the next grade, has effectively sabotaged each succeeding grade, with a snowball effect–so that by high school, more than half the students in my district cannot do the most basic middle school math.

There is no sense in advancing kids and not admitting that it will make it impossible to actually teach what’s supposed to be taught in the next grade.

Calculators in the early grades are entirely unnecessary and certainly harmful to the learning of basic calculation skills (from which comes the instinct for numbers that makes complex problem-solving possible later on).

There’s no good mathematician who’s appreciably better off because she was taught calculator use in third grade. There are plenty who are worse off because they weren’t forced to do calculations by hand repeatedly.

Any benefits of having all matter of food in the classroom are offset about a hundred times by the creation of a climate which is about something other than a mission-oriented focus on learning.

But, totally aside from one’s specific opinion on any of these, I’m convinced that a great awareness on the part of parents about what’s really going on in the classroom (e.g., most are flabbergasted that fifteen-year-olds are bringing coffee and bagels into math class) would bring about good changes.

The greatest improvement to public education in decades would come quickly if there were two or three parents in the back of every classroom, all the time.

(and BTW, that would be perfectly appropriate, and within the public’s rights)


Have you considered running for your school board? Even if your campaign fails, your school’s administrators are more likely to listen to you if they see you’re serious.

Are you a mathematician, or do you work with mathematicians? Believe it or not, the best mathematicians that I know are unable to do simple sums and products in their heads. Remember, mathematicians rarely need to do arithmetic when researching or teaching higher math. Arithmetic is not the same as mathematics…it’s just one narrow application of mathematics.

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