Saturday, August 16, 2008

Library Hours, Newspapers, Teens, Weather, and Public Schools

The local bars are open almost round the clock, seven days a week but the local library just reduced it's hours again and is now only open 25 hours a week, none of those hours on evenings or weekends. It's so frustrating. Sometimes I think they should just burn all the books and be done with it for all they seem to care about the community doing any actually reading.


My husband has had an ongoing "spite fence" sort of argument running with our local paper delivery guy for almost two years. The other day it all came to a head and the newspaper took back their newspaper tube, returned our money, and refuses to deliver the paper to us any longer. Sigggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh. The delivery guy, the supervisor, and finally the publisher himself all acted unprofessionally and sometimes like outright assholes but the problem is that my hubby isn't coming out of this smelling so clean and pure himself. Sometimes I just want to slap men. Really. Slap them. And then send them back to preschool where maybe this time around they can learn how to play well with others.


William called me from his friend James' house down the street, he wanted me to drive him and James across town to their friend Jake's house. I had just come back from running errands and, frankly, I didn't want to go out again. But I didn't want to dismiss them outright either. So I said "I'll make a deal with you. It will take me about fifteen or twenty minutes to drive you two over there, so that's how much time I'll lose doing something around the house. If the two of you do something for me first, I'll drive you both over there."

"What do you want us to do?" William asked warily.

Thinking fast, "Pick up apples in the backyard."

"For how long?"

"Ten minutes. Both of you."

He discussed it with James. "Okay."

I hung up and went to get my shoes on and get ready when the phone rang again.

"Uh Mom, Becky (James' mom) is gonna give us a ride instead. She loves her children more than you do." Translation: She's not gonna make them do anything in return for her time.

"Fine by me. I didn't want to go out again anyway."


The smoke had finally gone away (or rather, gone elsewhere I suppose, knock on wood) and the temperatures were in the low 80's and then about four days ago we started a humid and hot spell. Hot we're used to around here, but humid is a rare creature in this neck of the woods. I've been miserable. About an hour ago the quality of the light changed and the wind, which is warm, picked up. A storm is brewing. Also rare for summer. I can practically feel the barometer dropping. I sure hope we get something wet out it. Maybe that's what's been making me feel restless and off. It's true y'know, the older you get the more your body has it's own weather forecasting tools built right into it.


We received William's STAR testing results from last school year's spring semester in the mail today. For those of you who aren't familiar with STAR testing, I believe it's specific to California schools (although it might be a national testing system), it's those bubble sheet tests the kids do so that the government and other officials can gauge how well (or not) the school district is meeting standards and educating students. Unlike SAT scores, the test isn't meant to assess an individual student's progress, only the school's progress, and I think only the parent sees the individual student's test results.

William's test scores were all over the place. A few were below average, most were average or above average. He scored exceptionally high in Political Analysis, Post WWII History, and Science Investigation and Experimentation. He also scored above average in almost every other history and science category. He scored below average in Language Arts and Alegebra. These latter two scores surprised me as I know he's so far above his peers in reading comprehension that most adults don't understand his sophisticated wit and a lot of his vocabulary (just don't ask him to SPELL any of it!) and he enjoys math of all kinds and get's A's in his algebra classes.

I shared the print out with him and asked "What's with these math scores? Why are they so low? I know you do well in math."

"What is this again? Oh, the STAR testing? Well, those scores don't mean anything."

The kids know the "score". "So, you mean you didn't even try?" I said. "I would have have liked to see what you could really do."

"Well, you have my grades for that." William said as he went back to heating himself a couple of bean burritos in the microwave.

We both laughed. We've had an ongoing issue with him doing well in his classes. His teachers all like him, he participates in class, does all his work, but has a bad habit of not turning it all in on time or sometimes at all and so his grades don't come anywhere close to reflecting his skill level! We keep trying to impress upon him that even though he knows and we know and his teachers know that his grades aren't really anything but a mark on a paper, that those marks have the power to open or close options for him in the future. If you're gonna play the game, in this case the academic game, then you should be sure you know all the rules and play it to win.

""It's just, since you had to take the testing, I just wish you could have made an effort, that's all."

He was putting yogurt on top of his heated burritos. He turned and gave an sigh. "Mom, NO ONE makes an effort on those tests!"

And suddenly I realized what a scary and stupid thing this really was. It's true. The kids all know that the tests don't count for anything and it's undoubtedly true that all but those rare kids who like taking tests just for the fun of it (like me, I'm such a nerd) probably make minimum effort or less. Come to think of it, I remember one of my other sons, a teenager that was perfectly capable of acing any skill or class he put his mind to, confided to me that one year he just filled out his test paper so the bubbles made a pretty pattern. The other son reminisced that by the end of the day he would get tired and bored with it all and just start filling in bubbles randomly.

Yet here are politicians, school boards, polling institutes, academics, and school districts making decisions based on the results. And those decisions are making a difference in schools, teachers, and students lives. Too, think of all the public monies being spent in the testing!!! When you think about it, the entire process is beyond ludicrous. I have to say, it doesn't do much to shore up my confidence in the institution of public education.


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