In yesterday’s News and Observer, Brian Lewis, formerly chief lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators, discussed his “change of heart” regarding private schools. He previously opposed all efforts to fund private schools, which he had described as “unaccountable” and “scams.” He wrote: “Then life happened.” His daughter, Isabel, after “six great years in public schools,” was floundering in middle school, without any of the nurturing teacher-student relationships she had previously experienced. With the financial resources to seek out a private alternative, his daughter is thriving once again. Lewis characterizes her private school teachers as “mainly former public school teachers who want to teach rather than serve as standardized test proctors.”
Lewis acknowledges that many folks cannot afford an alternative to public schools. He also recognizes that regardless of income, “public schools are not a good fit for all kids.” Welcome to the world of special needs kids. In my experience, finding a good fit for many kids is like trying to match that glass slipper to every foot in the kingdom. The result? Bleeding toes. Cramps, aches, and pain. When you add the level of testing which now occurs routinely in public schools, it’s no wonder that our fragile students are struggling. A positive teacher-student match is at the core of any successful classroom placement, in my opinion. But even the best teachers are gasping for breath as they attempt to teach while conducting endless progress monitoring. You may also have an experience similar to that of Lewis’ daughter: you get a couple of good years and then the teacher-student fit is dreadful. Ask any special educator who is involved in classroom placement. We all know that some students are unlikely to do well in certain classes. Is the special needs kid so difficult or is it a poor environmental fit? You know what I think.