Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My e-mail to Fragrant Hills

So, as a follow-up to my little contretemps with the school psychologist (described in a previous post), I sent this e-mail to the principal, the school psychologist, and Younger Daughter's teacher at Fragrant Hills:

Principal, Psychologist, First-Grade Teacher --

I thought I should take the opportunity to explain, for the record, why I chose not to follow the recommendations of Ms. H's report for more testing for my daughter, YD.  I gave this matter a great deal of thought.  This was not a decision I made lightly or out of prior bias.  Here is some of my reasoning:

1.)  The report was written in a particular context.  At the time, Natural Friends was hoping that we could get  a 1:1 aide to work with YD in the classroom.  The only way the state would pay the aide's salary was if YD had a documented medical condition.  So Ms. H knew that her task was to support the case that YD had a disability that would justify paying for an aide.  She was looking for evidence of a medical disability, and what we look for, we tend to find.

2.)  Ms. H observed YD for a couple of hours in the classroom and saw YD engaged in panicky, disruptive behavior.  Based on the behavior she saw, she made recommendations and theorized possible diagnoses.  Now YD is in a different environment, and her behavior has improved considerably.  If Ms. H observed YD today, she would see different behavior, and probably make different recommendations.

3.)  The underlying problem is that YD doesn't like to be tested.  Ms. H mentioned that most of YD's test scores were artificially low because YD was so resistant to taking the test. Testing, especially when carried out by people YD doesn't know well, is not a very effective way to find out who YD is, what she needs, or how she could best be helped. 

4.)  YD has already taken a number of psychometric tests (especially in reading and language development), and no-one has found evidence for any disability.

5.)  The more time YD spends being evaluated and treated by specialists, the more she will come to believe that something is wrong with her.  This will undermine her self-confidence and make it more difficult for her to learn.  Instead of testing and evaluation, I think it's more productive to give YD intensive teaching so we can bring her academics to the level they need to be. 

In summary, I would like to say that I take all recommendations seriously, but that doesn't mean I follow them all. 

Thank you for your consideration. 



  1. This is excellent, FedUp. It's exactly what I had in mind when offering (solicited, mind you!) advice. You are firm but diplomatic. You make no excuses. You lay down an excellent case for no further testing at this time.

    You hint, but do not say outright, that you cannot base current recommendations on dated observations. Duh. Very clever how you pulled that off!

    The psychologist was patronizing and derogatory towards you. Her dismissive attitude was not lost on you. So you address it head on! Since you state such clear reasons, they can't very well just write you off as a bitch.

    Always remember. It's your child. You must do what's best for her. Even when you have to go toe to toe with an idiot. A cast of many, I'm afraid.
    You go! Great email.


  2. Thanks, HWB! I'm trying to stay on the high road. It'll isolate the psychologist who's taking the low road!

  3. Exactly. Negotiating for your child is not easy. You know that.

    You and I have talked publicly and privately about advocating. Whatever it is, be it homework (overload or stupid or a combination thereof), accommodations, testing; we don't want to bow and scrape. We don't want to make excuses. But we also don't want to be rude and emotional. That said, let us not allow some unacceptable zinger to whiz by without calling them on it.

    We mined this on Stop Homework. Some of us got tired of the patronizing "help" we kept reading about. The articles that were first on your side as they laid out the homework crisis at home, for example. Ah, you think, as you read, FINALLY someone gets it. Only to realize, as you keep reading, how you're supposed to be submissive and the Good Mom because School Knows Best and you're an idiot.

    That was years ago. We've all come a long way here, baby. We got tired of the "how to talk to school officials" dictates. On the other hand, we still want advice and direction. It's a minefield sometimes and we don't want to step in the wrong places.

    Yes, we want advice sometimes. And the best I can give is, DO NOT ever allow anyone to treat you like an idiot. Reject a patronizing condescending tone and call them on it. The trick is to do it firmly, articulately, and diplomatically. You can be polite and pleasant. But there are so many situations where we can tell them, not ask them. "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." Alice Walker

    The equation simply has to change. We are not the moms of the 1950's. This isn't Leave it to Beaver. On the other hand, we don't want to trash schools either. And we wouldn't, if they'd only treated us better. So many of us here just got Fed Up.

    There should be an ironclad agreement. You treat me with respect and I'll respond in kind. It goes both ways or I'm not playin'.

  4. This is unrelated to this post, but I've been wondering about this recently: if you were to design the perfect school, how would it look? What about the perfect teacher?

    I'm trying really hard to understand the things you want out of your children's schools and teachers and I can't come up with a perfect prototype of either that would serve the needs of all the different children in a public school.

    On a more related note, I think your email was perfectly reasonable. If the school psychologist was really as condescending as you say, you have every right to respond. In fact, I might even bring this to the attention of his/her supervisor. Usually the school psychologist is employed by the school's central administration rather than the principal, so that would be a good place to start.

  5. TeacHer, that's a great question that I don't have a ready answer to. I'll think about it a bit, and then post.

    I don't ask teachers, or any human being, to be perfect. I'll settle for good and always striving to be better.

  6. Update: I got an e-mail from the principal thanking me for my insight. As discussed previously, parents have insight, while teachers have expertise.