In the autumn of 2011, when the US school year starts, I fretted over my daughters’ grade placement. To make an extra-painfully long part of this painfully long story short, after starting kindergarten with their age peers, J and M were skipped, at different points in the year, up to first grade. They started and ended their school year in the same grade as each other. For a while, though, there was a good chance that the twins would end up in different grades for the remainder of their academic careers, a prospect that made me feel a little sick.
One might think that the matter of the girls’ grade placement was resolved. They had both completed first grade with awards attesting to their all around academic excellence. They had qualified for the 2nd grade Gifted and Talented program for this academic year. They’d carried themselves remarkably well in the face of the reality of how mean 7-year-olds can be. They’d even worked together to protect a classmate who was facing bullying.
As luck would have it, I requested official transcripts as part of my preparation for our 900 mile move. That’s when things got really ugly.
I reviewed their transcripts and began to suspect a problem. Both transcripts showed the girls as having completed kindergarten, not first grade. In retrospect, I’m glad that both sets of records had the same problem, so I didn’t have inconsistency between J’s and M’s. That might have landed me in the loony bin.
I called the school. I was referred to the registrar. I left a voicemail. After not hearing back for several days, I called back to see if there was someone else in the office who could help. I was referred to the assistant principal. I left a message in her voicemail too.
I gave up on telephonic technology and decided to play this old school. I drove down to the school and asked to see the registrar. She referred me to the assistant principal. Once I cornered her, she informed me that since the girls didn’t have placement tests on file, they had no way update their records to reflect their grade. I asked her why the placement tests weren’t on file. She told me the girls had never taken any. I reminded her that the school had conducted an extensive evaluation before recommending that J and M skip a grade. She said they didn’t include the testing piece because it involved ordering a test from the district. I reacted the way you would expect.
The girls could take the test now, she said, just to get the scores into their records. I agreed. I needed accurate transcripts for the new school district. Fortunately, M and J, like their mother, love tests. They just see them as extended puzzles. I filled out the form requesting testing twice, the form we’d never been offered before. I secured a promise that I would receive a phone call as soon as the tests arrived. I inhaled a smallish box of chocolates, then called my ex-husband to fill him in. He didn’t take it as well as I did.
Time scurried on, but I didn’t hear a peep from the school. I called to follow up, and was told that the district didn’t like to administer the tests on odd dates. Could M and J possibly sit for the test in August. Sure, I said, as long as it was before the 15th. We were moving away after that.
The end of July drew near, and I heard nothing from the school. I didn’t even mess with the phone and went in to find out what was going on. The assistant principal was on leave, I was told. I told them to find me the principal. They got me the registrar. She told me they were getting a new assistant principal.
I met with the new assistant principal before she’d had a chance to put photos of her kids on her desk. She said she’d follow up with her predecessor to find out what was going on. I asked whether I could give her what information I had. She pulled out a legal pad, grabbed a pen, and turned my Mama Bear wrath into a full page of notes. She would take care of things, she told me, and whether or not she’d made progress, she’d call me by Friday.
She actually called me on Friday. I began to hope that things cold be cleared up. Too soon. She apologized profusely, and herself acknowledged that had the school dotted their Is in the first place, we wouldn’t be here. However, district policy was that every application to be tested to skip a grade had to be approved by the school board, and they wouldn’t meet again until after the next school year had begun.
Fine, I told her. I surrendered. Was there any way that they could attach a letter to their official transcript explaining the situation? She agreed to do so.