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Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Advice about Middle School
Our 6th grade son is in a smaller OUSD middle school. What with serious budget woes, etc, (bigger classes, no GATE program, etc) he will quite frankly never get the challenging curriculum AND the teacher's attention he needs. As a result, he's bored most of the time and is in danger of never learning how to learn since most stuff comes easily and he tends to get anxious if he doesn't understand something (he also has documented behavior issues, a 504 Plan and is on meds).
Private school is totally out of the question - he was rejected by 6 last year and the experience left us very, very bitter (his anxiety issues came out full-blown during interviews).
At the recent Open House night, one teacher seemed to be pleading with us to ''do something'' since he's so bright and she understands his frustration and boredom and she also fears he will ''never enjoy school until college''. That's a long time to suffer!!
What the heck are our options?? What do others do with their very bright children in middle/high school?? [According to recent posts on another BPN thread, the Bay Area is overpopulated with exceptionally bright kids...]
Do ANY East Bay public high schools have tracking programs that are successful? (I've heard different reports on Oakland Tech and their AP Program). Do we have to leave Ca.? Home school? Supplement? ARgh!! So Sad
First my short answer, yes, your child may be too smart for public school if your public middle school is not differentiating the curriculum. In the Oakland Education Association (OEA - teacher's union) and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) contract it specifically states that all teachers in all grades will differentiate for the students in her or his class. The OUSD Plan states that students who have tested into the gifted and talented education (GATE) program will be clustered in class and that their needs will be met.
So, you need to look on the district website and find the OUSD GATE plan (it is under departments, gifted and talented) and write a letter and send it certified mail to the principal of the school, Troy Flint at the district office, Tony Smith superintendent and Betty Olson-Jones of OEA. The letter should ask for the differentiated lesson plans to meet your son's academic needs.I would also say that if the district will not comply you will seek to have your son's academic needs met at the cost to the district.
I believe that parents should file a class action against OUSD as they are not complying with their contractual obligations, nor their own published plan. As parents of gifted or highly motivated students we have the legal right to have our students needs met in public school. You have options for online education, but this may only exacerbate your son's issues. I also believe this is why we need publicly-funded charter schools to meet the needs of gifted students in OUSD schools where the teachers do not know how to or refuse to differentiate classroom and home work.
You need to write the letter in May and give them 40 days to comply. Work on the issue over the summer and actively make sure that you work to get the classes and teachers who are willing to differentiate their curriculum. You will not only be helping your son, but my child and all of the other students who are not being served by OUSD.
Mom of GATE Child who supplements with Stanford's online EPGY Program to Make Up for the OUSD and Union deficit
What sounds like a disconnect in your post, however, is how you seem to think about the responsibility for educating your son since it sounds like you think the ''right'' institution will solve all the problems. I believe it is the parent's responsibility first, and then in partnership with schools and any other resources you might find to help. Your post sounds like you are blaming all of these other institutions with not "geting" or serving your son, who from your description has some real challenges. To be rejected by six private schools means something beyond his academics is going on and most likely not just with him but as a family unit. I've heard from colleagues in independent schools that they don't think an otherwise academically-ready kid with other issues is a good fit if the parents are in denial or unwilling to take responsibility for getting outside help. It's nice that his current teacher is sticking her/his neck out and asking you to do something. good luck 2 cents
My 10 year old daughter, who has been home schooled thus far, is considering attending middle school for 6th grade. Although she is academically a bit ahead, I feel confident that she would be OK, even if bored at times. However, so many of the schooled tweens I know are pretty typically obnoxious (materialistic, cliquey, shallow). Frankly, I'm worried about her being socialized in this environment. In general, the home schooled tweens and teens I know are really lovely people. I'd like to hear how your girls have survived or been damaged by middle school, public or private, and your recommendations for particular schools that nurture healthy adolescent behavior. No lectures, please, on how kids need institutionalization to be socialized correctly. Is middle school the right choice?
So for us, yes , a large public middle school in Berkeley is a great choice for our kid. Good to great teachers. Lots of diversity. Interesting after-school classes and sports. All three middle schools in Berkeley have great programs going. If you live in Berkeley, stop by and check them out. BUSB Mom
Unfortunately, I don't think you can ever get away from the ''tween'' social scene and some of the bad attitude that goes with it, but I truly believe that the values we instill at home will hopefully guide them in the right direction with their peers. Good Luck!! teresa
I am a middle school teacher and I LOVE middle schoolers. Yes, they have their issues, but so do younger kids and adults. I think middle school is a magical time to learn what you like and who you are and I have seen many kids thrive in middle school. It is important to remember that any time you get a group of people together, there will be some you like and some you don't. In my experience the good kids find the other good kids, and it all works out.
I have had a few homeschooled kids have a rough transition to regular school just because it is so different. Having a teacher instead of mom grading work is sometimes a bit of a shock. So, if you decide to send your daughter to school, you may need to accept a period of it not being too comfortable while she gets used to a new system. teacher
My son seems to be struggling with the move to middle school. He was in a small, very close knit school for k-5, but is now midway through 6th grade in a large middle school. The good-he is playing baseball, with some success, in the band, running track, and his grades have been mostly A's and a couple B's. He is taking control of his homework, practicing his instrument, and playing a lot of guitar on the side. The bad--he has been suspended from school for having cigarettes and a lighter on him, and pulled out of class by the police b/c he was telling kids he deals pot, and asking what they wanted. Last night he was telling a girl via text that he smokes a lot of pot and cuts himself or is thinking about cutting himself. Now, I know he doesn't smoke a lot of pot (he doesn't have the freedom to do so, and I've never smelt it or seen any signs of it), and that he doesn't cut himself. He is trying to find a persona that works for him, I guess, but we don't really know how to help him find a healthy one. Any ideas or suggestions? We are struggling, not wanting to over or under react, but not sure what to do. He is a good boy, but I'm afraid he is going to talk himself into trouble. Struggling parent
My son, who has always been a A-B student and has gotten along fabulously with every teacher he's ever had, is having a terrible time at King Middle School. He is in 6th grade. He will not play outside during recess (he has been going to the library instead) and does not want to invite any friends from school home. At his elementary school he had many friends and an active social life on weekends. His work is suffering, he is not turning in assignments and his latest progress report predicts that he will be getting C-Ds. He used to be quite uptight about turning in his homework when it was due, and doing it just exactly right. Now his teachers' assessment is that he doesn't care. I am at a loss. He insists there is nothing wrong, yet he is very unhappy, cries, and has asked to go back to his old school. He is a gentle boy, not into sports and generally not into rough activities, very creative. He is miserable. I don't believe King is a good fit for him, yet I do not know what alternatives there are for people who cannot afford private schools. If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations I'm open to just about anything right now. Thanks
In hindsight, my analysis of the problem(s) and what helped:
1) My son has always lagged in his social maturation. So when he came back after the summer, most of his friends had changed and he had not. His friends were more anxious to be independent, more interested in risk-taking activities, more interested in girls, less interested in hanging out with their families. My son was still a fifth-grader at heart, still wanted to be with us, and was terrified of the new terrain. He ended up being teased by many of his peers for various things. Solution: He eventually had to make some new friends that were more like him. The good news is that King is a big enough school that you can pretty much find friends who are like you no matter what. It took awhile to make the new friends but the confidence that that gave my son was considerable. He still doesn't invite "new" friends home, but seems to have many friends (both new and old) at school. And now as he's maturing, he's reconnecting with some of the "old" friends.
2) My son felt detached from his sixth grade teachers at King. This is not because they weren't good teachers, but because he was just one of 30 students to them. I realize that at his elementary school, all the teachers knew him, knew his brothers, his grandmother, and my husband and me. Being known in this way was an important anchor and identity for him. Without that he felt very disconnected. Solution: My husband and I reached out to his teachers, let them know my son was having a hard time (and could not articulate why). They were wonderful. Each made personal contact with him in small ways. This made a tremendous difference to him. We now know that it is something that he needs in most situations. We are trying to show him how to make these connections and build this identity on his own in new situations.
3) My son chafed under the amount of homework he suddenly had in sixth grade (as compared to fifth). He spent nearly 3-4 hours every day, alot of it in procrastination. It was brutal for him, for us, and for his siblings. Solution: Not sure we achieved one, and homework continues to be my son's major complaint about school. Neither I nor my husband feel there are many benefits to large amounts of homework, in fact we believe it is detrimental to a strong family life. But we did our best to help our son find ways to get through it with the least amount of pain possible. The good news is that he has considerably less homework in 7th grade.
Good luck to you! There's nothing as painful as watching your child suffer. Consider also contacting the Sixth Grade Vice Principal. The King administration is very sensitive to the need for kids to like school and connect socially with other kids. In hindsight, I wish I had asked them for help. They have been responsive to us in other arenas.
Since then I've met other parents who had more positive experiences, by being more involved and making use of programs the school has -- like the Extended Day Program and GATE classes in the Spring. One friend says her daughter had the benefit of meeting weekly with a counselor -- for no particular reason. At some point in sixth grade that option came up -- and she took it. The counselor made sure the girl stayed in touch with her options and what was available to her.
In November I went to an informational meeting (another kid headed there next year). Neil Smith said a very important thing -- "If your child is unhappy after 6 wks or 2 months...Come see Me!" I think he meant it, and if I'm in your shoes next year -- I'll do it. Good luck.
ps. If you're committed to leaving King - you might want to look into the School of the Madeleine on Sutter -- by 6th grade they often have a space or two, offer a good solid education at a price WAY below private schools...and would give your child a working knowledge of religion, without expecting him to be religious.
Can we expect/hope that our children are academically challenged? My daughter is in a Berkeley public middle school and is really not being challenged. She has had other years where this was true, but we always make do. She reads more at home, takes after school classes, and we do science or math projects at home. But she is getting frustrated, and so are we. She reads books during class because the pace is so slow. The math moves way too slow, the English books are read aloud in class which is slow for her since she does her reading at home. She's a 'gate' kid, but so far that has meant nothing. The mini courses have always been offered at times where she has other activities, and the subject of the classes are often not academicwhich is what she is telling us she wants. Being identified as 'gate' has never meant that she has been taught at her level.
She is a good student, very upbeat, and a hard worker, no motivation problems, and not a discipline problem. But year after year her needs are ignored. Do we have the right to hope her school might WANT to challenge her? Is being taught at her own level a luxury, or something that we might expect? I know Berkeley has so many kids at so many levels in one classroom. Many of the teachers are good at handling this very difficult teaching challenge. The new required standardized testing is probably very stressful for teachers who are trying to bring kids up who are below grade level. I'm so sympathetic to the teachers who work so hard, and the many kids who have to overcome formidable obstacles to get their education. I worry so much about the kids having problems (and have volunteered in the classroom a lot to work with students) and the hard task of the teachers that I'm afraid to advocate for my daughter. I want to know what others think about this. The last thing I want to be seen as is a 'pushy gate parent' that thinks their children's needs come first. Like all things it is a balance, but sometimes I'm not sure where the balance should be.
How do other parents think about this? Do you give up on the public schools and go to private school? Do you give up on the classroom and do supplemental teaching and after school projects? Do we help the district Gate office to address the needs of our children differently? Do we just ride it out and hope our kids catch up later, when they are at BHS, or college? What ideas do others have?
We're also having concerns about the amount of challenging material our child is receiving. His most recent homework assignment at King was to write out 100 words he's expected to learn for a spell-a-thon THREE TIMES. His class has been tested on these words several times, and he hasn't missed one yet, but he was expected to complete this very boring, repetitive assignment which taught him nothing.
The district focus of GATE education is on differentiated instruction. I've sat in on a few meetings, and that is the direction they're headed, over mini-courses or pull-out programs. However, there is very little money for materials, teacher training, etc. As you pointed out, some teachers are already doing it well, but others aren't there yet. The district offered an optional seminar on differentiated instruction this past summer and no teachers from his former elementary school signed up to take it. Some teachers feel they're doing enough. GATE education is clearly undervalued in the district, no matter how it's implemented.
Our solution is to offer plenty of enrichment (classes, camps, travel) and encourage him to read a lot. I hope the situation improves in seventh and eighth grade, although what you've said makes me think it won't. I have no solutions, but remain hopeful that some excellent teachers and a love of learning will prevail. We've gotten invaluable support from a friend who works with gifted populations, which has helped tremendously.
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