Are School Standards Leaving Most Kids Behind?

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The view I'm going to see of my kids for 12 years.

My kids are both a bit “behind” in school. That’s right, my three-year-old and my six-year-old are already “behind” in preschool and 1st grade.

My daughter’s teacher asked me to help my daughter with her colors because she confuses blue, yellow, and green. She also wants us to practice counting and visually recognizing numbers. That’s right, I need to start teaching her to read numbers. Zach didn’t have to do that until the end of kindergarten.

The teacher clarified she just wants to start “exposing” Kaylee now, maybe because my eyes were visibly welling up with tears from the shame and guilt that Kaylee’s already falling behind, only two months into the school year. The teacher has to assess Kaylee again in February, and she feels guilty if kids do poorly because they didn’t start practicing early enough. Technically, Kaylee needs to be able to read numbers 1-30 by next fall.

We were told at the end of kindergarten that Zach was reading below grade level. He’s in a program where he mostly learns in Spanish, so I figured this was kind of normal, but we still hired a tutor to work with him over the summer. Today, his teacher told us that he’s still reading three levels below what he’s supposed to be. She thinks it’s mainly because his vocabulary is very limited. We don’t speak Spanish at home, and this was not supposed to be necessary to be in this program, but I’m seriously feeling pressured to learn a whole bunch of vocabulary now.

I really want my kids to grow up bilingual, but this is harder than I expected. Part of Zach’s school day is Spanish Language Development, which I thought was teaching him Spanish vocabulary and grammar, but it seems it’s not enough.

My husband complains it feels like we’re partly homeschooling our son. We just expected Zach to get more out of what he was learning in the classroom. He has really good behavior, they never say he’s not paying attention. In some ways that’s worse. It’s like saying he’s just learning too slowly.

I worry that the standards are too high. The kids are going to be tested on solving mathematical equations and then explaining WHY that’s the answer. They have to explain things like why two plus two equals four. I can’t even answer that except to say, “It just does!”

Zach already has about 7 pages (double-sided) of homework every week, plus a book report (one page where he draws a picture and writes a few sentences). We try to do it mostly over the weekend plus one weeknight because he has a martial arts class two afternoons per week. I’m afraid that if his homework load keeps increasing, by 4th grade he’s not going to have time to eat or sleep. We do all homework, we read to him at least 20 minutes per day, and he’s still “behind.”

I’m going to tutor my kids, plus I’m going to hire a Spanish tutor for Zach for conversation and vocabulary practice once per week. Part of me wishes I could “push back,” and maybe I could, but life is competitive now, right? This is all so my kids can keep up, and with a lot of luck, maybe even get a tiny bit ahead of their peers for the few jobs that aren’t being shipped overseas or that only pay minimum wage.

Do you think schools are expecting too much of kids? Are parents not expecting enough of them? Do teachers have too many kids to teach all of them adequately?

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