Friday, February 4, 2011

hold out a little longer. . .

I have taken video.
It is Basketball video.
It stars the kids.
I have not had the time to upload it from my camera, then put it on youtube in the restricted format, then post it on the blog
never fear
I will do it.
Not today.
it will happen.

I did not elect this idiot. . .

I have been on a major soapbox this week. I am sorry. My kids can recite to you all of my points and why they are absolutely, 100%, undeniable, completely verifyable truth.

Well, maybe it IS technically just my opinion, but that does not detract from the fact that it is still
I spent a good deal of time emailing this letter, or abreciated copies of it, to the entire State Board of Education, all of my State Representatives, and the local newspapers. I was going to send it to all of my local schoolboard members, but I see most of them on a regular basis (small town) so they already know how I feel. Or they have wives that are Facebook friends and/or follow this blog.
So, yea, this is another forum to annoy those who love me with my only true perspective on this situation.

Much has been said about Superintendent Luna’s proposal for educational reform. Discussions are heated in both directions, as they should be. Indeed, when considering the basic right of free education for our children, it is a very emotional issue. As I look at a few key areas of Mr. Luna’s plan, I find myself becoming emotional in response to what I feel is a basic lack of understanding on Mr. Luna’s part.

Let’s preface this by saying that I am fully aware that there have been major economic issues effecting public school funding. I have seen class size in our local schools increase, I have seen necessary services for students cut; all of this done as there was no other option. However, the basic structure of what constitutes a useful education has remained intact. Mr. Luna’s plan has several aspects that attack the basis of this structure putting our children at risk.

I am the parent of a High School Student. My child does well academically; there has not been a GPA below a 3.897 since the fourth grade. My child also participates in a significant amount of extra-curricular activities in both private and school forums. Being attentive parents my husband and I, in conjunction with our child, decided that enrollment in an online course would allow more time in the current class schedule. In addition, satisfying a graduation requirement online would allow more time for electives that will aid in college acceptance. This began our struggle with an IDLA online Physical Education course.

The idea was a good one; the time spent in sports and other physical activities outside of school would be used in place of attending a regular Physical Education class. However, this has not been the case. My child, who regularly appears on the Honor Roll, cannot raise the grade in the online course above a 78%. Why is this happening? Well, I can see several reasons.

First of all, the web site is not clearly constructed. When my child ‘logs on’ and accesses the class, it is not uncommon for the required reading to be inaccessible on the website. There seems to be an inordinate amount of technical difficulties. In addition, it is not always clear whether or not there is an assignment attached to the readings. We have also found that the link to the assignments is difficult to find within the layout of the website. My child is as literate in technology as most students are. In addition, a long running history of academic excellence shows responsibility when it comes to coursework, yet I continually receive notices from the online instructor informing that several assignments are missing. Searching for the links to these assignments usually takes longer than the completion of the classes themselves. We have also had frustration as live chats are scheduled, but we are not notified in a timely fashion; I have opened my email in the evening to find a notice that a chat had been scheduled for earlier that day. As of now, all of these chats have been scheduled when my child is at school so attendance would not been possible even if we had been notified in enough time to attend. This is also reflected in the grade.

Second, the lack of personal contact makes communication difficult, if not impossible. It is quite often my child has a simple question on an assignment. If this type of question arose with a traditional classroom, there would be a simple answer and work on the assignment would continue. In the online class, if there is a question my child and I find we are guessing at what the teacher’s response would be. Yes, the teacher is available by email, but even a speedy email response takes 12-18 hours. Yes, the teacher has provided us with a phone number, but as my child is extremely active the time usually spent working on the online class is on the weekends and extremely late in the evening. I do believe the teacher has done the best possible job within the given framework, but I have found that there is truly no substitute for personal contact. Yes, I am aware that a significant amount of college coursework is offered online. However, when you attend a University such as ISU, and participate in an online course, the professor is available during their office hours for this personal contact. This is not the case with the IDLA course.

Third, it is my belief that given the logistical difficulties within an online class situation, requiring student to take two online classes per year will prohibit students from achieving adequate academic levels to go to reputable Universities, much less attend these Universities on necessary scholarships. If a student who has a long history of high academic achievement is unable to succeed in this forum, what is going to happen to the average student? Or the student that is in need of an IEP?

The right to a free education is the right to learn those skills necessary to perform as a meaningful member of society. Those skills are different for each person. Within a traditional classroom setting, with a reasonable number of students, a good teacher is able to address those individual needs. In an online class a teacher is no more able to access the needs of a student than they are able to access the needs of someone sending them junk email. Distributing laptop computers to all students opens unregulated access to a virtual world where persistent dangers lurk. The computers at the schools are highly filtered, providing protection to the students. It is the responsibility of the parent to regulate the use of the internet at home: if the internet is even available. However, any student with access to a mobile, unmonitored computer is compromised. Mr. Luna’s plan would expose all High School students to dangers they may not be aware of, and are not equipped to handle.

It is my sincere hope that Mr. Luna will abandon his plan, as it is clearly not in the best interest of our students. No one benefits from increased class size. No one benefits from a lack of inter-personal communication.

Well, perhaps someone does. I am certain those companies that provide these online courses will profit, and as Mr. Luna has accepted a significant amount of campaign funds from these companies I am sure he will profit as well. Nonetheless, my current High School student, and my two other children who will enter High School in 2013 & 2014 will find that Mr. Luna’s plan has been to their detriment.

Danielle Matheson
Shelley, Idaho

For those in need of translation, IDLA=Idaho Digital Learning Academy. IEP=Individual Education Plan.

I have attended many an IEP meeting. I have to go to them and discuss all sorts of issues with the Speech Therapist, the school councellor, and several of Dallin's teachers every year as they renew 'the plan' to help him with his speech. It is amazing the amount of paperwork necessary to provide 20 minutes of speech therapy once a week.

Many students are on an IEP. If they have any sort of learning disability that requires an aide to pull them out to help them beyond what is offered in the classroom it is addressed in an IEP. An IEP is NOT eco-friendly. My last one was 12 pages long.

Well, now that I have once again stood upon, and stepped down from my soap box I will temporarily be quiet.

But it will only be temporary.