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Focus on behavior versus skills acquisition

Comforting a child
Comforting a child
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

School goals contrast sharply with student/parent expectations.

"The Lincoln Board of Education (LBE) is committed to providing the highest quality education for all students in Lincoln Public Schools. The Board sees the primary mission of the schools to be the development of responsible adults:
• who are productive citizens of a pluralistic community, nation and world;
• who are prepared to learn throughout their lives; and
• who are appreciative of the arts, history and culture.
As the elected governing body of the School District, the Board believes in sharing its decision-making processes with parents, students, other citizens and staff members." (

In sum, LBE goals are to develop responsible adults exemplifying positive behaviors: productive, prepared and appreciative.

However, students and their parents seek acquisition of specific skills which prepare each child to reach his/her greatest potential. Parents expect children to be taught to read well, write, spell and master basic math skills. Once that sound foundation has been laid, students individually advance to the next higher level of learning as the instructional pace reflects proven mastery of subject content.

If your child attends a behavior-focused, group-project oriented classroom, be on the alert for signs of boredom and/or frustration induced by inappropriate, ineffective curriculum and instruction.

Behaviors which may signal problems induced by school:

  • Sometimes finds it difficult to sit still, may be impatient
  • Fails to complete homework and classroom assignments
  • May not pay attention to time limits or deadlines
  • Questions reasons for decisions, questions authority and rules
  • May be stubborn, may disagree strongly

Parent interventions may include:

  • Request a strengths-based assessment to determine at what curriculum level your child is functioning.
  • Child should be placed one level above current content mastery.
  • When placed at the appropriate level of content-rich curriculum, the child should advance as mastery is proven: in a skills-acquisition focused education plan.

In behavior-focused classrooms, boredom and/or frustration are often interpreted to be a deficiency in the student. In March, 2013 the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 11% of school-age children were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a 41% increase in just 10 years. (The ADHD Explosion, Hinshaw and Scheffler 2014)

Methamphetamine is an active ingredient in ADHD medications. A growing number of middle-class, two-parent families, have meth-addicted adult children who were diagnosed with ADHD and medicated while in school.

Our focus is misplaced. As a nation, it behooves us to, instead, look at curriculum and instructional practices in our schools. Does our failure to teach basic skills (37% of Nebraska fourth grade students score at grade level or above in reading- 45% in math) contribute to the explosion of:

  • Mental health diagnosis in our school-age youth?
  • Drug addiction?
  • Incarceration?
  • Fatherless families?
  • Sluggish economy?
  • Rise in poverty?

The good news is “…the Board believes in sharing its decision-making processes with parents, students…” ( that is your invitation to speak to the board about goals for your student. We often hear of the importance of local control, nothing is more local than a parent. Talk to your board member about what matters most to students and you, the parent.

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