The Battle for Class Placement

We start to prepare our kids for their future from a young age. As we teach them the alphabet and how to count, we hope that one day they will accomplish big things. Finally, with the right mix of pulling strings and a certain amount of luck, we find the “perfect” school. We think that because we have bright kids and we chose a good school, we’ve done our job.

One of the criteria parents take into consideration when selecting a school is whether there is a rigorous curriculum. We want our kids to be able to do advanced level work and we can’t fathom that they might not have an opportunity to do so. To us, they are not “average” and we don’t want them perceived this way. But the way the system is set up, decisions about class placements are based on test scores and teacher recommendations. Parental input is a small part of the equation. In other words, our kids are boxed in from the start based on factors we do not control. So why are teachers and parents not on the same page about the higher level classes?

Teachers and parents look at class placement from different angles and at times this creates conflict. We (parents), will be there twenty years from now to see the results of our decisions. Therefore, we tend to think in terms of what will prepare our child best for the next step. We want to portray our kid as a student who seeks challenge. In addition, our decision is not only driven by academics, but also by the social environment in the classroom. We want to make sure that our child is surrounded by serious kids that want to learn and that behavioral issues will be at a minimum.

On the other hand, teachers face their own pressures. There are school policies in place that control when and if they are allowed to offer placement testing. At times, these exams are offered for prospective students and are not available for existing ones. Finally, teaching to different academic levels in a class that’s meant to be advanced is a more challenging project for the teacher. If the child doesn’t succeed, it might reflect negatively on the teacher’s performance.

Of course, every situation should be examined on an individual basis, but shouldn’t good students be given a chance, even if it is against teachers’ recommendation? As a parent, I believe that we should keep as many doors open for young children for as long as we can. Keeping kids on the “same track”, makes it more difficult for them to move up as they get older. The material becomes more challenging and if kids get used to a certain pace, it’s tougher to advance. As a result, they can get “stuck”.

I believe it would be better to approach class placement in a more cooperative fashion. Teachers and parents should look at the “whole child” and the overall long-term goals of the child and the family. While I understand that not everyone belongs in advanced level classes, I think it’s important for young kids to have an opportunity to try, without their parents having to jump through hoops. Given a chance, the child will either thrive or the family will realize that it's not a good fit.  Clear expectations need to be set and parents need to be kept in the loop about performance. A good student can succeed in an advanced level class provided he is set up for success.

Should children be placed in advanced classes against teachers' recommendations?

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