SCHOOL SCENE: When they say “that’s our policy”

SCHOOL SCENE • BY A.J. CAMPBELL

It is important was dealing with your child’s school that both sides are using terms that are clearly understood. When dealing with Montgomery County School Board staff it can be challenging sometimes to understand the difference between a teacher’s opinion and the school’s opinion and actual Board of Education written policy.

In recent discussions with the my daughter’s school, I found two members of staff, who were asserting their opinion,, as the official policy of MCPS. The staff, the math resource teacher and the grade level math chair, both asserted as POLICY that a student does not get promoted a math grade level.

It is important for parents to understand the difference between policy, that is set by the school board and customer, opinion or practice that the school staff might characterize as policy. When presented with “THAT’S OUR POLICY” it is important for you to understand the difference.

If it is a school level policy, then there maybe other alternatives that you might want to talk to Rockville HQ about. As different schools might have different practices that they also characterize as POLICY.

If you are interested in the official polices of MCPS, they are published on the document sites of the Montgomery County Board of Education. Click on menu button “Policies.” Policy documents have a number assigned to them.

Don’t be afraid, to politely ask for a copy of the policy that the school staff is referring to. They may not know the number off the top of their heads, but should be able to point you to a MCPS department office in Rockville, MD who will know it. Or you can look it up yourself.

When I asked them for a copy of the policy, they immediately back-peddled, saying it wasn’t policy but their experience that it was better for the kids. They refused to speak to me further on the mater and referred me to the someone at their office who told me flat out that there was not a POLICY per se but it was based on their experience that it is not recommended.

The use of the term policy shuts the door to discussion.  I think of a policy as county wide and evenly applied. There is a big difference, in my mind, between” not recommended” and flat out “against policy.” The staff in these discussions were surprised that I would question whether their assertions were based on actual Board of Education policy or on options, experience or practice.

What might be true in your home school may not be practice in another. Maybe the way other schools’ approach the problem is better. Clarifying the terms makes your discussions more producing and ultimately more successful.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.J. Campbell is a freelance writer, graphic designer volunteer junkie and mother. She lives and works in Takoma Park with her daughter.


 

Illustration ©2015 William L. Brown

2 Comments on "SCHOOL SCENE: When they say “that’s our policy”"

  1. Janis Sartucci | September 18, 2015 at 11:10 am |

    This is an excellent article! Every MCPS parent should read this. It has been common practice for over a decade for MCPS staff to use the word “policy” to shut down parent advocacy. Yes, always ask to SEE the policy. 9 times out of 10 it does not exist.

    (Please correct the link in the article to reflect the correct MCPS – MD not VA. Thanks!) [corrected! Thank you!]

  2. Even within the same school, kids may be subjected to different policies. Even siblings.

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