I love my son's public school. They are exceeding my expectations.
For the past 30 years (or at least since I was old enough to hear about it), all the news and reports point out how much we (The United States) are falling behind every other country in the world in terms of primary public education. We rank 30th in math, 35th in language arts, 40th in science, etc (I made those ranks up for emphasis). The end of times is certainly near.
And No Child Left Behind is certainly to blame.
No Child Left Behind did something new in federal education reform... not the idea of standardized testing (we've always had those), not that new wacky math you see in the Common Core standards, and not the concept of higher funding for higher scores. The newness was right there in front of you. It's in the title of the bill.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
For the first time in any federal education reform bill... ALL children were included. Schools could no longer transfer their poorest performers to Special Ed weeks before their standardized testing, schools could no longer expel their poorest performers, and schools could no longer ignore their drop-outs.
This became very important to my family.
Jack has a school psychologist that he adores. She's funny, hip, smart, and energetic. What's not to love? I have no idea how many students see her regularly (I'd guess about a dozen?). But I know which one she champions the most (at least from our perspective)... it's my boy.
And that's where I want to praise the system.
I spent 18 or so years in the public school system (including college and grad school). I was a good student... not the best, but good. I went to good schools. I was surrounded by good kids, smart kids, successful kids. I was a geek, but a well-rounded geek.
From Kinder to 12th grade, however, I remember few teachers that actually championed me. A Kindergarten teacher that made me write stories during reading time, because I already knew how to read. A second grade teacher that let a friend and I present our "sketch comedy" to the class after lunch because we were way ahead of the lessons. A high school Biology teacher that let me make movies instead of essays because he had figured out that I was creative... but I sure as hell wasn't going to become a doctor. A high school English teacher that pushed for me to publish my work (before the days of epublishing, mind you).
But that's about it. I don't remember any bad teachers, either.
Oh, wait, I had a music teacher that hired me on the weekends to play weddings and parties with him. That was pretty cool for a 13 year-old to get $30.
So 5. 5 teachers I remember that championed me. 5 teachers that pushed for me outside of the classroom. 5 teachers that (if they are still alive) still ask after me today.
Jack is only in the 3rd grade... and he has more than 5 already.
Jack's current obsession is Minecraft... and he's not alone. Just about every boy in the third grade (and several of the girls) love Minecraft.
Last year at our annual IEP our school psychologist suggested we enroll Jack in the Minecraft class (part of the after school program) that they offered. 10 or so little "Miners" on a local network playing together.
She had to vouch for him. She had to convince the after school program that he would be okay without his aide there. She had champion him.
And she did.
Yesterday was the first day of Minecraft Academy.
I met the instructor and informed him of Jack. I told him everything he needed to know about what to do if Jack wasn't participating or misbehaving. I also told him that this was Jack's Superbowl and he had waited all Summer.
He was great.
What was even better is the bonuses we got from this class. Jack was finally in a social group where he wasn't the odd man out. He was truly in his element.
When his mom got home and asked him about the class he declared it as the "best day ever".
Imagine, Jack learning reading, writing, conceptual mathematics, team work, and conflict resolution in a classroom setting.
All because he had a champion.
It might be a little "pollyanna" of me to assume that this class will launch Jack into the upper echelons of academia, but, if nothing less, he's learning to type.
And Common Core testing is done on the computer this year.
For more information of Minecraft and special needs students check out "Autcraft" on Facebook. It is run by a good friend of mine and is a server designed specifically for children on the spectrum and their families. Stuart Duncan is doing very amazing and admirable work over there.