Tonight was back-to-school night at my daughter Charlotte’s school.
Some of you may have just read that and gone “WHAAAAA?!?” Well, Stockton Unified School District, for no logical reason that I can discern, currently starts its school year the last week of July and ends it in mid-May. Last year it ended just before Memorial Day, but they decided to shorten the schedule by a week this year to save money. (I suspect they could save almost as much simply by starting the school year in September and ending it in June, thus not having to run the A/C in hundreds of classrooms through all of August, but hey, whatever.) So that’s why there’s a back-to-school night on the first week of August: ’cause that’s just how Stockton Unified rolls …
But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to brag about my brilliant kid.
I know, every parent thinks their child is a genius, just like every sports fan thinks their team is the best. But some teams lose two-thirds of their games each year, and some get rings — there’s evidence to support the assertions of greatness in the latter case, not in the former. So I’m not going to just say that Charlybucket is smart — I bring the stats to prove it.
Stats like how she just turned 10, yet she’s already in sixth grade. (Skipped a year.) Stats like how when she started fifth grade, her reading level was tested at 6.5 (meaning halfway through sixth grade) — and when she finished fifth grade, she tested at 11.1 (meaning high-school junior level — at the age of 9!) Stats like how she was the top-rated member of her team at last year’s county Math Olympiad, and how she was credited with reading over 1,000,000 words by herself during the last school year — which was the original goal for the entire class combined. See, I’ve got support for my argument here.
And I got some more support tonight.
Back-to-school night was pretty much your average back-to-school night, improved slightly because Pittman Charter School, where Charlotte attends, decided not to do the usual assembly at the start. (You parents know what I’m talking about: the one where you’re all packed into the cafeteria but the A/C isn’t on since it’s not school hours — especially fun in August! — and the principal gives a long cliche-ridden speech and introduces every single teacher, and you can’t hear most of it because the majority of the kids and a third of the other parents are talking and school cafeterias are giant echo chambers and you just hope for a moment where the principal turns around so you can make a break for it and get some fresh air …) So that was a plus — we got to head straight to the classrooms.
Classrooms, plural, because Charlotte’s sixth-grade class is actually in two classrooms — one teacher (Mrs. McGuckin) does math and history, the other (Mrs. Robinette) does English and science, and they work together on art and P.E. So there was a lot to see — pyramids and zigurrats and cave paintings and maps of the world, and math papers and language books and ukeleles and pictures of the Eiffel Tower and Springsteen posters. (I don’t think the Springsteen had much to do with education; I think Mrs. McGuckin is just a Bruce fan.) Charlotte showed me both her desks (one in each room, each of which she shares with another student when they switch rooms) and which world map was the one she made, and so on.
And in the midst of this, I overhear part of a conversation between my wife and Mrs. McGuckin.
Turns out Nina had been curious about what Charlotte’s scores had been last year on the CST, the standardized test given to all California primary school students. So she’d asked Mrs. McGuckin if she had the records, and she did. And as I came over, they showed me the numbers. The math portion of the CST works on a 600-point scale, whereas the language arts section goes up to 475 points.
Last year, in her first year in a new school, her first in a school that wasn’t seriously underperforming, a year younger than all of her classmates, Charlotte scored a perfect 600 on the math section, and a 465 on the language arts. According to her teacher (I’m not allowed to see other kids’ scores), she was over 150 combined points ahead of anyone else in her class last year.
She isn’t perfect — while we were there, we found out there was an assignment she’d forgotten to do (and forgotten to tell me and Mom about), which meant that as soon as we got home she had to sit down and write a two-paragraph synopsis of Dan Gutman’s Return of the Homework Machine. But she did it, she didn’t carp about it, and her penmanship (always her Achilles heel) was readable. She knows hard work and focus will take care of most problems, she loves reading, and she wants to learn whatever she can. (In fact, as I was writing this, she came in wanting to know why the President has to take the Secret Service with him when he goes jogging. Which meant she got to learn about presidential assassination attempts.)
I’d like to think all this is a result of good genetics, but I’ve known a lot of dumb people with smart kids (and vice-versa). I’d like to think it’s been great parenting, but I look at myself and know better. (I’m the best dad on either side of my family, but that’s not much to brag about; I’m mediocre.) Maybe I’ve contributed positively — I’ve tried, at least — but sometimes I just have to look at the situation, recognize that God has blessed me with a little genius, and try not to screw her up too badly. It’s enough. And I’m thankful.
I can’t wait to see what Charlotte does by the time she graduates high school. At 16.