How did we ever get to this place?

By Debra Helms

I am a concerned parent from North Carolina....I don't know where to go for help. I have sent letters to the principal, my son's teacher, the county superintendent, the Director of Accountability Services state level, and the county school board. What can I do? I am only one parent very concernedfor my 5th grader's future. 

I wrote the following letter to my son's teacher (on February 1, 2001)...I have received no response from her (as of February 15, 2001). 

Yesterday I received the "Parent Alert Letter, Grades 4 & 5". I must tell you I was very upset. This entire school year I have been writing letters, sending e-mails, going to meetings, making phone calls, and asking questions about this writing test and the impact to my son. I have gotten no returned phone calls, no responses to my inquiries. At the beginning of the school year, I asked about having Casey tutored in writing. This would be a supplement to ongoing class work training for the writing test. You assured me he would be fine. 

This letter states, "he will be provided remediation" during grade 5 "as an appropriate level of proficiency...". What "remediation" has been provided for my son? This letter also states he will be "subject to retention" for a repeat of the fifth grade if he does not pass this "Writing Test". It flabbergasts me to think a student can pass all courses, then be held back because of one writing test, that is graded on a purely subjective basis, by the employees of a contracted grading company! 

The threat of "required to attend summer school..." is negligible, as Casey went last year to help him learn the "formula" necessary to pass this so called "writing test". It did not help then, and I don't believe that it will help him in the future. Narrative writing is an art form, a skill, like drawing or music; that some people will never have the ability to do. If the talent for music is not there, no amount of practice or training will make a person a musician. Neither Casey nor I have been told what is wrong with his writing. He doesn't understand the "formula" that is to be used, based on the "prompts" given; and frankly, neither do I. Casey is a smart child, but he has been totally turned off to writing. So far, nothing has motivated him to want to write. 

When will I know the results of the county level test he took yesterday 1/30/01? I want answers before we waste any more valuable time. What is it that will help Casey? 


I would like for you to know...that we finally met with the principal, the teacher, and the writing assessment person at the county level. I asked the question if Casey were to fail "what would they do for him next year"? They informed me and my husband that they wouldn't do any more than they were doing this year. I was also informed at that meeting that they were keeping a writing portfolio and Casey probably would not fail because of his writing. To me the point was not that he would fail, as much as what will happen in the coming years. How would he progress? That day we found a tutor for Casey (an English teacher I had in high school - I graduated in 1973), he took great interest in Casey. This wonderful man tutored Casey three (3) days a week. Casey got his score back last week - 3.0 on the writing test. To me, the worse part was Casey had lost all of his confidence. Since Casey's score came back - you can't believe the difference in his confidence and his work at school. We are doing something terribly wrong to our children when we destroy their confidence. Casey is a bright boy...and all boy. It saddens me to think what North Carolina is doing to our Children. How did we ever get to this place? 


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