Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things I've Learned This Week

This weekend I noticed that one of my oldest friends has a major jones for 80's pop music as that's all she played on her fancy Sirius radio station in her hip hop happening SUV. Then I read a number of blogs where people listed their playlists. Being a Luddite, I don't have a playlist. I don't download tunes or shuffle them or anything else exotic. I have CDs and even a few cassette tapes in my car. I mostly listen to public radio on this old battery-operated thing:

Retro radio and the first of many cases of Girl Scout cookies

But, I thought, I've acquired some new music lately. I kind of have a "playlist." I might be cool too! Let's explore what the Marantz 5 disc CD changer has to offer: The Lost Angeles Guitar Quartet: For Thy Pleasure, JS Bach and other baroque masters; Edith Piaf 20th Anniversary; Yo Yo Ma: Soul of the Tango the music of Astor Piazzola; and Nickel Creek: Why Should the Fire Die.

Yes, people, my lack of hipness extends even to my taste in music.


In an attempt to make good decisions for my son's future, I've spent hours poring over educational research, psychological research, school administrator research, guidance counselor research and parent testimonials. This is what I learned:

1) All of the current research on retention in grade 3 is a direct outcome of the Current Occupant and No Child Left Behind.

2) Yet another reason to loathe the Current Occupant and NCLB.

3) The current research on retention says that it is BAD and DESTRUCTIVE and NO GAINS WILL BE MADE.

4) The current research on retention has nothing to do with my situation because the children for whom retention is bad are poor, urban, Black, from single-parent families and attend struggling schools. These children are expected to succeed where they've failed before without anything in their lives changing or any education or social initiatives in place to address their struggles. My child already has a lot of support in place, including a good school, parents advocating for him, and his basic needs (regular nutritious meals, books, consistent bedtime, etc.) in place.

5) We're back to square one on the retention thing now after all of my research because, as usual, nothing new or substantial is studied or published. It's just a rehash of the same stuff I studied in graduate school over a decade ago. I don't know which is more depressing, the fact that I still have no better direction for our decisions now or the fact that poor, urban, Black, from single-parent family kids in struggling schools have it no better now than they did back in '95 when I read mountains of research about their plight.

6) Maybe we'd be better off spending all of our "education research" dollars on inner city schools and social initiatives to help these kids instead of using them as research subjects.

7) The next time the School of Education from UW-Madison calls asking for money to fund their important research, I'm telling them to f*** off and I'm mailing the check directly to a Milwaukee Boys and Girls Club.


In other news, it was gratifying to read how my bloggy friends are just as unstylish and have as mixed feelings about it as I do. I raise my coffee cup this morning to blue jeans and Dansko clogs, t-shirts and fleece. Let's say the affirmation together:

I deserve to feel beautiful, despite my old blue jeans, stained t-shirts and ugly European clogs. I am able to be stylish without making any effort. Letting go is loving and letting myself go is an act of love.

Cue Edith Piaf singing Non, je ne regrette rein. (No, I regret nothing.)


  1. Just wanted to say that I've been enjoying reading your blog. I found it through my friend's blog who is friends with Clemsongirl. I'm totally with you on your comments from yesterday and today. Plus, anyone who references Northern Exposure has to be fabulous :) Thanks for the good reads! - Kristen

  2. Hi Melissa,
    I don't know why your little one is being kept back...but from my experiance in the UK (where there is no retention in the state sector) it has much to do with the parents - I have had friends who had kids very young for their year or who had problems, whom they kept back, or the school suggested keeping back - and definately the earlier this is done, the better the result.
    One friend tried to move her child back a year at age 8 - it was too late. Another who stayed back a year age 5 didn't even notice!
    My No 2 has two pupils in her class who are actually a year older - and the kids are very matter of fact about it - "A is in my class because she was very ill as a baby, and B, because they are dyslexic".

    Don't know if that helps a bit - but don't worry yourself ragged - it will all work out just fine, because YOU care about him.
    Best wishes Hen

  3. If you get a chance, go to YouTube and pull up Metisse's song "Boom Boom Ba." I think you'll like it.

    Also, all your research is good, but ultimately you'll know within your heart what is best for the boy.

  4. Yeah, right now we have kids in our middle school who can drive, thanks to NCLB. My son has a reading disability and reads just below grade level--he does on or above grade level in everything else--in fact he's very bright, which is how we discovered his LD (duh, you ain't stupid, so how's come you cain't read nuthin'?)

    So while they were phasing in NCLB, he was always promoted whether he did ok on CRCT or not, it was a judgement call on the part of "the committee". Now, he lives or dies by a test. Both he and older son are on the young side for their grade, he's the youngest of 4 kids, so he's a lazy baby, so it probably would've been good to keep them back initially--but hindsight is always 20/20. Now it will just be totally painful for him, as well as humiliating, if that comes to pass.

    No solutions, just sympathies.

  5. Did you remove the post about your son's retention issue? I can't find it. I would just echo Jen in trusting your gut. As someone who has taught in a school and at home, trust your instinct and don't believe everything other people tell you about your kid. I'm not saying you aren't getting good information. I'm saying that there are a lot of buzz words in education that are often broad and, in some cases, lame.

  6. This post sums up my life. Great writing and fabulous interconnections. Me too. On all of it.


Spill it, reader.