The 13-year-old Desperado

Avery Gagliano is in trouble. Having more than ten unexcused absences from school in the Washington DC public school system, she’s been declared truant. What was she doing? Was she hanging out at the mall? Was she smoking with a bunch of loser? Doing drugs? Voting Republican?

Um, she was being a world-class piano prodigy:

The prodigy, who just turned 13, was one of 12 musicians selected from across the globe to play at a prestigious event in Munich last year and has won competitions and headlined with orchestras nationwide.

But to the D.C. public school system, the eighth-grader from Mount Pleasant is also a truant. Yes, you read that right. Avery’s amazing talent and straight-A grades at Alice Deal Middle School earned her no slack from school officials, despite her parents’ begging and pleading for an exception.

Avery’s parents say they did everything they could to persuade the school system. They created a portfolio of her musical achievements and academic record and drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world as one of the star pianists selected by a prestigious Lang Lang Music Foundation, run by Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who handpicked Avery to be an international music ambassador.

But the school officials wouldn’t budge, even though the truancy law gives them the option to decide what an unexcused absence is. The law states that an excused absence can be “an emergency or other circumstances approved by an educational institution.”

Avery’s parents can’t afford private school. But I’m hoping some private school will read this article and fall over themselves to give them a discount. I would if I ran a school. It’s also possible that the school will cave now that their idiocy has been splashed all over a newspaper.

The key to understanding the problems in our public education system is the realization that the system does not see kids as individuals who should be enabled to rise to the peak level of their abilities. Nor does it see teachers as the people that can open and develop a child’s mind. It sees the schools as a factory, the teachers as grunt labor and docile little future workers as the product. It sees conformity as the ideal. It exists, in the exact words of “educators” like Arne Duncan, to produce workers for American businesses. Thus the tremendous enthusiasm for universal standards and testing: specification and quality control of the product. Thus the willingness to micromanage teachers and throw the latest greatest education fad at them: what you expect those commoners to know how to teach? Thus the enthusiasm for year-round schooling: more product is better product. Thus the hatred for school choice: it could liberate children from the government system (or even worse, force the system to reform).

Little Avery is a piano genius and a straight-A student and that’s great. But the system doesn’t exist to create piano geniuses or straight-A students. She’s not being an obedient little drone, hobbling her way to the quality-controlled, overmanaged, top-down lesson some Washington bureaucrat has decreed for her. And for that, she must be punished.

Update: The DC schools are claiming it was all a big misunderstanding. The reporter disagrees.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    I’ll disagree with that a bit – the problem isn’t that the teachers are “grunt labor”, the problem is that between tenure and the unions the teachers are insulated from actually having to be accountable.

    You cannot have an effective school system when blatantly incompetent and/or uncaring teachers can’t be fired like anyone else in the country.

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    You cannot have an effective school system when blatantly incompetent and/or uncaring teachers can’t be fired like anyone else in the country.

    I agree. But you also can’t have one where the teachers who *are* competent have their classrooms and lesson plans micromanaged from 3000 miles away.

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  3. Seattle Outcast

    Of course, the Dept of Education needs to scrapped, pretty much in it’s entirety to remove all aspects of federal interference from state & local education programs.

    One of the more stupid things Carter did.

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  4. hist_ed

    It the bureaucratic drones that are behind this.

    I am on a couple of teacher sites and the vast majority of teachers hate the cookie cutter standard of doing things. I got in trouble with my boss over the last few years because she didn’t think my lesson planning was up to snuff. Spent two years writing plans that were as formulaic as possible. Not a great way to inspire kids.

    And school policy about unexcused absences is part of rating schools. Many states use attendance numbers as part of a school’s grade. A couple of years ago my junior high principal spent several days in the Summer calling parents asking them to retroactively excuse students absences from the previous year (“Remember when Johnny was absent 6 months ago? Can you please excuse that now?”). Because of that effort, my school met its yearly benchmark for progress.

    Oh and did you know that essentially every school in Washington State is now labelled a failure? Washington is the only state that is out of compliance with Obama’s policies, thus we are the only state to not get a waiver from NCLB goals. This year, the goals are that 100% of students will pass grade level exams. 100%. Talk about outside of reality.

    OK ed ranting done.

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