Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Open Letter to the School Chancellor of New York

As a parent I’m pretty tough when it comes to school. I (we, my husband and I) have always been very vocal with our son about school and homework. We’ve told him and will continue to tell him that school and homework are not just important but SUPER IMPORTANT. I make sure I check my sons homework EVERY NIGHT. When he started kindergarten I made sure I sat with him every night to watch him do his letters and numbers and showing him how to do it the right way. He still has an awful handwriting but at least he’s not a bad speller….he’s only in 2nd grade after all. I’m not expecting some great excellence from him when it comes to tests. He has always done well to very well and I’ve always told him how proud I am. I know how bright my child is and know where to push him more and where to back off. With all this in mind I’ve decided to write an open letter to the School Chancellor of New York, Dennis M. Walcott.

Dear Mr. Walcott,

Let me start this letter off by saying how very disappointed I am in the New York school system. I have a son who is currently in the 2nd grade. When he entered Kindergarten he had to attend an ESL class due to the fact that my husband and I spoke to him only in our native language. At first school was a confusing and scary place for him as he didn’t understand what the teacher was telling him. As timed passed he become more and more comfortable as he learned the language. While he was in Kindergarten his nightly homework usually consisted of writing one letter and one number multiple times to practice writing, a basic math sheet and reading a small book. I didn’t complain about his homework back than because I thought that since he didn’t understand the English language so well this was more than enough for him. Overall since he was in Kindergarten and he didn’t understand English I was satisfied with his work level.

When he entered 1st grade, a full speaking English student I assumed (BIG mistake) that his homework would increase. After all he spoke English fluently. The homework however didn’t increase by much. A couple of sentences (once per week), writing spelling words multiply times (once per week) and 1 or 2 math sheets per day and reading a small book.

As the months went on I realized this was way too little homework. He wasn’t being challenged at all. He would be done with him homework in matter of minutes. I saw in his face that the homework was way to easy for him. I spoke with him teacher during the first Parent-Teacher Conference about challenging him more and she said many parents were complaining about the work load being too much (?) and she couldn’t give anymore but suggested that I print out on my own some sheets and give to him. So I did just that. Every night he got a couple of more worksheets. I should also mention that even thought he had in my opinion mastered the English language by the end of Kindergarten when he took the ESL test at the end of the year he failed it by some points so he was in a half-half ESL class for 1st grade. This was probably one of the main reasons why I still in a way understood why the work load was smaller. His teacher had expressed to me that my son and a couple of other children were excelling greatly while others were struggling and she had to make sure the ones struggling were understanding the work.

When my son started 2nd grade (he has passed and excelled on his ESL test) and was placed in a English only speaking glass I (foolishly) thought he was finally going to receive the work load suited for him…..WRONG. This year it seems his work load has decreased.

My son right now is a P lever reader (For those that don’t know he’s approximately a reading level of a 3rd grader at this time of the year, so essentially he’s a year ahead in reading). I personally don’t look at this as some great accomplishment. Some kids learn to read faster and some slower. Eventually if the school and the parents are doing their job right they’ll learn how to read any word. But my son is proud as he gets promoted to new reading levels and I’m also….he’s my son and of course I will be happy for him in anything he does for school. He and another boy are the only students in his class that are now P lever readers. Most other kids are B or C, some D and the rest E or F. You don’t have to know reading levels to see the reading level difference but back to my original though, reading is reading and all kids will (hopefully) learn how read eventually.

My big issue is with his homework this year. His homework consists of mainly 1-2 math pages per night and usually once a week some kind of writing assignment. This takes him approximately 5-10 minutes to do. What the hell? 10 minutes of homework per night.

I’ve complained to his teacher who advised me that she’s not allowed to give out more than that per the school rules. She suggested that I on my own give him extra work. So that’s what I’ve done. Every night I give him extra math sheets and writing sheets to do. This is not a problem for me. I take full responsibility for my children. I do believe it is my job to make sure they do well in school. It is my job to make sure they are excelling academically. I’m not one of those parents that put all the work on the teachers and is shocked when their kids fail. I work with my sons teacher to make sure that he is doing what he’s suppose to be doing. The problem is what about all the other kids? Why are kids not being challenged more? Why are we letting them off easily? I know some kids need more help than others but the ones that are doing well why are they being put in the same class room as the ones that are behind. I’m doing all that I can as a parent but the school is failing miserably. My sons school is suppose to be one of the really good ones which makes me wonder what are the bad schools teaching. I’ve spoken with my sons teacher and she doesn’t know the answer. She suggested I talk to the principal for next year but even she says she doesn’t think it will make much of a difference since that is the curriculum the teachers are given and that’s that. When they are young and their brains so fresh is when we should be challenging them.

This problem really concerns me because these kids are our future and if they continue at this pace we’re going to be left with some really dumb adults to run our country. Please Mr. Walcott do something about this. Challenge kids more. Trust me they can handle it. We parents are willing to sit with them and make sure the work is done but we need your help and support. Please don't fail our children and us.  

Thank you,

A Very Disappointed (but hopeful) Parent


  1. Well said my daughter is in 4th grade and there are days that she has tons of homework and days its just math which takes her 10 minutes. Now my daughter I can honestly say hates school and homework but I feel the more homework giving to her the better in the long run even if she hates it. I was told by her teacher that they focus more on vocabulary words because of the ELA state test they are taking this month they focus more on that. What about focusing more in the subject they need help in like science? When I had asked about extra help I was told her school doesn't offer that really? What elementary school don't offered extra help? My answer was go on a site and let her do extra work. No I don't allowed that why should I have a computer teach her when we pay a lot of taxes for teachers to teach our kids and give them the help they need

  2. Well said. I pulled my son out of the public school system 3 weeks before 1st grade was over (some to do with the school work and some to do with the way my child got labeled) I took him to a chartered school and had him tested. with out it they would have held him back. He passed with flying colors and is now doing some 3rd grade work when he is in 2nd. This school I have him in goes off a different curriculum than the public school and is also a collage prep school. I'm in Az so I don't know if you have that option, but if you do I highly recommend looking into it.

  3. My kiddos have very little homework until the 5th grade and then it seems like so much because they haven't built it up with the extreme distractions my house provides... I'm glad he is a good speller, I can't stand it when a kid can't spell. Of course my kids school thinks that spelling is learned through reading only, I bought a spelling computer game in hopes that it would help..