Schools should come with warning labels…

There will be no change at my daughters’ school.

There will be no education revolution.

Sorry…this post might be depressing, and will probably reflect my current emotional state, but not a permanent one…I hope.  And I apologize before you start reading, because I do not intend this post to be a reflection of all schools, just the ones that I am most familiar with.

For the last couple of months my wife and I (much more my wife than I) have been working diligently to prevent a ticket based reward system from coming to Bethany Community School. There have been blogs, Facebook pages, and many face-to-face conversations and emails.  After reading about how it is used in other schools we thought there was no way the administrators could push this by the Board of Education without them examining it closely—this would be the first they heard of it even though the school had bought the program and had been training a select group of teachers.  After the Board of Education meeting last night I have learned that there is little or no hope for change…no hope for a revolution.  There were six people who attended the meeting and spoke out against the ticket system…three were from our family.  My daughter wrote a wonderful speech and at 11 years old stood with much more courage than her father or mother, and told of stories of how ticket systems damaged her at school.  Afterwards an administrator implied she was lying by saying those things do not happen in 6th grade…I guess my daughter needed to specifically say they happened in 4th and 5th grade to be seen as telling the truth.

Here is what I leaned from the experience of trying to change a school program:

Teachers cannot make system changes from within because they fear repercussions from administrators and from fellow teachers.

Administrators will do their best to squash any opposing viewpoints from parents, teachers, or children.

Board of Education members simply rubber stamp anything that the administration gives them.  They will not ask any probing questions.  They obviously see anyone speaking(so few do) at meetings as crazy and their opinions should be disregarded.

Children are seen as non-compliant and whiny when they try to voice their opinions.  They are not valued — for the human beings they are, or as future adults, but should remain obedient children

A Parent who speaks up is seen as the crazy person.  So much so that speaking up might hasten a change in the opposite direction of what they are trying to do!

I have learned that parents simply don’t care about what happens in a school. Yes, everyone says that you have to build a groundswell of support and then things can change.  Unfortunately I feel as though any parent group going up against the school system would be like an army with bayonets, going up against an army with machine guns.  Yes, the parents could win, but you would need hundreds that would be willing to get shot down, so that eventually some could make it into the “fort.” (Ever see the movie Glory?)  And so they will not speak up.  They will not attend meetings.  They will not take on the system that has worked so hard to teach them that they are suppose to stay in compliance.  Once parents walk into a school they revert to being children and just sit-up, and shut their mouths.  I have done it so many times myself.

The reality is, that each year we think “don’t fight this year” or “there are only a couple of months left and things will get better next year.”  And then after a couple years of that…”don’t bother fighting because she only has one year left in the school.”  It is so much easier to avoid getting shot and not battle.  Unfortunately, that leaves the kids in the crosshairs of the school to take all the bullets.  When our kids come home riddled with bullets we brush it off as friendly fire.  The reality is their hearts and minds are getting murdered, and the people that are supposed to be lovingly guiding my child into adulthood are the ones who are doing the shooting.

Schools should come with warning labels.

What would the label on your school say? (positive labels encouraged)


  1. Paul,

    I am so sorry to hear this end result.

    Hopefully this ticket system will fade away quickly. First of all, it sounds very cumbersome. And if your daughter is at a campus where they feel that writing tickets is the way to make change…then I guarantee the teachers there will not maintain this system.

    Hang in there and keep your head up.

    My school has this label:

    A campus that in general works for the good of students. Some parts work better than others, but we don’t let it deter us.

    Good luck!

  2. My school/district adopted PBIS last year, and so we are in the second year of adoption. And while I agree with you on some points, I think there is some merit in the program. But as in always, it is what teachers and administrators make of it, that is the difference.

    There has been lots of pushback from teachers at my school, and although I haven’t read your comments on the system extensively, it seems to not be the same problems.

    [Changing the subject here a bit]

    I’m changing grade-levels next year, to one that is a little more strict on having students make sure they get their planners signed by parents. And when I say strict I mean that they punish the students if it is not signed. Hey, what a great way to make someone hate school, punishing them for something their parents didn’t do! I bring this up because at some point teachers have decided life is a lot easier if you simply punish the few who don’t and leave the ones who do alone, rather than just rewarding the ones who do the expected task.

    So, in my opinion, it all boils down to this, it makes teacher’s lives easier to punish rather than reward. This is an atrocity (did I spell that right?). Isn’t the American Dream about how hard work pays off?

    I don’t know man, I would love to continue this conversation and see/hear what’s going on there, while trying to offer some thoughts/feelings/insight/my own issues/ways I see teachers manipulate the system to continue what they have done for years/but hopefully, something worthwhile.

  3. Steven,

    Really? Punish kids for not signing planners? Our school does PBIS, and it’s nothing like that. Now granted, we are a high school, so PBIS definitely looks different here, but the P in PBIS stands for POSITIVE. The goal is to focus on rewarding the positive behavior that you want. I don’t think tickets or punishments should be a part of a system that should be about identifying and promoting the behaviors that we desire.

  4. My son’s current (private) school would have the label “Singing and Dancing, that’s what matters!”
    (There are lots of announcement about how the choir is doing and about the dance concerts—those are the only events that get put on the school calendar at the beginning of the year.)

    Science, math, history, English—well the school has all those (sort of), but they don’t matter much. The school has been trying to lose it’s reputation for being the “arts school”, but only by saying that they want to be seen as well-rounded, not by actually doing anything to call attention to academics. (Oh, and I just found out that they are laying off their best math teacher, because he graded too hard and expected high schoolers to do homework.)

    We’re going back to public school next year.

  5. I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks

  6. Sorry, so sorry.

    Get out if you can.

    If you can’t, I hope you share your frustrations with your daughter, now and in the future. It might seem subversive or damaging to some people that you can let your daughter know that you disagree with what she is being asked to comply with. It’s not – it may be a fine line to walk, but it sounds like she can handle it. Let her know though, that you expect her to to comply without becoming compliant, and that’s a difficult thing. Let her help pick the battles you will have in the future, and keep letting her make the case. Don’t deny her your true feelings about these “bullets” – you may not choose to use that language with her, but you get the picture.

    Good luck.

  7. “If the 80% of evangelical parents whose children are being educated by the state realize that the state is determining the absolutes (all while denying that there are absolutes), perhaps they would no longer render to Caesar the things that are God’s.” R.C. Sproul Jr., “When You Rise Up”

  8. Wow, I had not been by here for a few weeks as the last post had been in January. Suddenly, I find all these fascinating comments.

    You are so right about school boards. There may be one who stands up and speaks out, but they are seen as a heretic who should probably be voted off the board in the next election. Even those who ran on platforms of change become rubber stamps once they are seated because they wish to remain so. I’ve seen it for the 21 years I have been teaching.

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