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As I posted in an earlier message, we have left the private school where our kids have been for the last 8 years. There were multiple reasons; many things last year were fairly outrageous to us but the coup de gras was a confrontation between me and the new headmaster over the Science Olympiad.

Well, the older daughter is now in high school, and we have moved the younger one to the local government school since there are no non sectarian private schools anywhere around. Our local school is a rural district, and has one of the best reputations in the county, but the reputation of this county in the state is not a good one. Our younger daughter is in the elementary school here, and our older one is in the better high school in the county seat. Now, this county seat consistently ranks at the very bottom of the state academically, although the high school has a pretty good reputation and has a lot of advanced placement options.

So, we were somewhat resigned to having to supplement both kids to make sure they got what they needed. Well, the older one is being substantially challenged and has encountered some genuine competition among other freshmen; there are some very bright kids to be found in that high school - and the high school is actually doing quite a good job of accomodating them.

The elementary school that my younger daughter is in is the genuine surprise. We just had our first parent-teacher conference there and we learned some things that we had not known, that we are quite surprised about, and very pleased about.

This elementary school has not scored particularly well on the state tests, particularly in math. Also, from what we had heard, we expected the math to be pretty much a repeat of what she had done last year. But we had noticed that, with the sole exception of spelling, my younger daughter was receiving some challenging and interesting work. We noted this with some surprise and pleasure. So tonight we talked to the teacher.

As soon as we started at that school, we had DD tested for the GT program, and of course she sailed into it. The teacher told us the rest of the story.

This school has a policy of not permitting 4th graders to go to 5th grade classes for anything. The reason is that they are in different buildings, and the school is concerned about the security issues of having young children change buildings for particular classes. We can't argue the point. But with our daughter, the teacher quickly realized that the 4th grade math curriculum was not appropriate. So she went to the school administration and insisted that she had to have the 5th grade curriculum for our daughter. The administration agreed, and she obtained that curriculum, and now has our daughter doing 5th grade math - and she says that only DD is doing it out of her class (she has 28 kids).

She also told us that DD is a joy to work with, she loves working with her, and she has her advanced in every subject except spelling ("I can't juggle any more balls, and spelling is the least important of the things that we do here"). She knows that my older daughter is the County spelling champion from a couple years ago, she knows that my younger daughter is an excellent speller, she has made this decision, and we concur. She also knows who we are.

So, we have a situation here where a public school teacher has recognized one of her students as extraordinarily bright, and has gone well out of her way to see to it that this student is accomodated.

Now, I have in the past been highly critical of the government schools. I have also always tossed in the caveat that my criticisms shouldn't be interpreted too broadly; there are always excellent teachers out there. Well, it is our good fortune that we have found such an excellent teacher, and this teacher has the support of her administration.

Any school can be an excellent school. It takes a willing administration and willing teachers, and willing parents. I cannot say that this school is an excellent school; the test scores say not, and one teacher does not a school make. But the administration appears willing, and I certainly can not ask more of this teacher than she has been giving - and giving without being asked.

My daughter is receiving a substantially better education now than she was getting at that expensive private school. My hat is off to this teacher, and as the year advances we will undoubtedly find substantive ways to show our appreciation.
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