Wednesday, September 03, 2014

First Day of School!

New parent or veteran of many grades, welcome back to Seattle Schools.  It can be dizzying and worrying but take it in stride.  You - and your child - will probably be just fine.  Transportation kinks will be worked out and so can schedules.

That said, if your high schooler has schedule issues, hang in there if you are trying to get your child a rigorous schedule and not TA classes.  Also, if it's an issue of wanting to be with friends, do not try that argument with counselors.  You will get a blank stare (and rightly so). 

A couple of pieces of advice:

- make a copy of all documents you sign.  You just never know.  And today you will likely get a very full packet of documents.

- About the FERPA document.  Knowing what I know today, I would not sign it.  Also, the law says this:

A school must inform eligible students of how it defines the terms "school official" and "legitimate educational interest" in its annual notification of FERPA rights. 

If you don't see this information on the FERPA form (or a separate school document), ask for it.  

- This advice comes from one reader (and I endorse this):

One thing we can do is to educate our kids. My former middle schooler, for example, was apparently told to complete an online assessment to help determine interests and future college options (or something like that). They were supposed to sign up with their personal email accounts, then they spent a whole class period working on them. My kid tried to decline, but the teacher said it had to be done. So my kid sat at the screen for an hour and faked it instead. One unnecessary data tracking service successfully avoided!

For my current middle schooler, I'm updating our guidance to never give out your personal email address or info to someone you don't know and trust. If a teacher or school rep asks you to do so, say you first need a copy of the relevant privacy policy for your parents to review, because you're not allowed to give that info out without parental consent. Asking teachers to provide this info may get them to think about the risks they're asking kids to take, and whether it's worth it.

It IS your right to control what information is asked about your child.  You may not be able to entirely control the school data but you do not have to have your child give it out freely in class. 

- One of the hardest things about sending your kid off to school is that you will never truly know what his/her day was like.  Did the teacher not see his/her raised hand?  Did he/she not have someone to eat lunch with?  Did someone make an off-hand comment on clothing choices?  Not the biggest things in the world but big to someone who is young.

I liked to ask my boys specific questions, rather than, "How was your day?"  I would ask, "What did you do at recess?"  "What made you laugh?" "Who's your favorite teacher (so far)?"  Anything to get them to be specific so I could get a glimpse into their school day.

- This week or next, take time to introduce yourself and your child to the principal.  Make that connection.

- Just as you are getting a volume of information this week, consider what the teachers are getting.  Unless you have a dire request, give them some space to get the class in order before you ask for something.

-  Your attitude/tone will be what your child understands about how you feel about their school and their teacher.  Make it a positive one. 

- It's a difficult thing to send your child off to school and not see who they are and how they act when you are not around.  Kids can act very differently around other kids and adults more often than you might believe.  Please don't say, "My kid would never do that" because you would be surprised (especially in middle/high school when they are challenging boundaries - it's their job, they're teenagers).

BUT, you know your child and you are your child's best advocate.  Everything he/she does at school does not reflect the child you know.  Don't be that "my child, right or wrong" parent but also do not be the parent who sides with the adults.  Have a careful (and private) conversation with your child about any situation that arises.

Kids need to know that someone has their back. 

Good luck and tell us all about the day at your school.


curious said...


Can you give more specifics about why you wouldn't sign FERPA doc?

mirmac1 said...

Got on PS this morning and was gratified to see my child had the classes I wanted for her. No state test info, that I could see

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious, two reasons.

1) I don't believe Seattle Schools' privacy policies are near strong enough. (I'll have a white paper on this in a couple of weeks.)

2) The district is allowing more data out than ever. I'm not sure people realize how far and to how many people that data is traveling.

Now before you tell me it's all de-identified, that's somewhat true and somewhat not true.

Now, by not signing the document, your child's photo probably can't be in a school newspaper (although I think the yearbook is different) or listed in a school directory.

I tell you, the next big thing in this country will be companies that will provide ways for you to keep your privacy (a la Europe).

Eric B said...

Will wonders never cease? First day school buses were on time, at least for us.

BefuddledParent said...
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BefuddledParent said...
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Anonymous said...

HSPE test results are posted but not EOC.


Joe Wolf said...

Back to school vintage Seattle photo fun:


Anonymous said...

The piece that the middle schooler did was likely through WOIS. It'll come up via google. It's commonly used as it hits all aspects of what the plan currently entails:interests and goals, learning styles, high school goals and post high school. It also hits the expansion points (pending funding of course). I'm required to run students through it in the high school technology class I teach, just so the plan can be checked off the list of requirements. Because it's an online database it transfers with the student and doesn't have to be managed by our counseling staff.

I agree that it's data mining and a direct pipeline for colleges, and that parents should be notified. But that's why kids (high school at least) are doing these things.

Glad I left

mirmac1 said...

I see EOCs are on PS. My daughter passed Algebra : ) She was anxious about that.

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