Lee: I would wager that most first-grade teachers could tell you which students are "below grade" within the first nine-week grading period. If you accept that premise, the next question is why don't schools loop these below-grade students back and try to catch them up when they are at a point where you can catch them up.
Dunwoody: Our education model is broken. One size does not fit all. I fought "the establishment" to get my November birthday daughter into first grade when Georgia's birthday rule would have her repeat kindergarten (she had attended a church kindergarten). Her kindergarten teachers, who had teaching certificates, told me she was ready for first grade. I thought she was ready. We were fortunate to be able to afford a private school that does not adhere to the birthday rule. She left the private school after third grade and went to public school. She is now entering high school and has excelled both academically and socially. She is more mature than many of her friends that are almost a year older. We need innovation and creativity and a model that better meets the kids where they are.
Sara: Schools are like a mirror, a direct reflection of the community. If the school is successful or failing, community support (or lack thereof) is the reason. We sold our house at a loss in Gwinnett to move to a better school district in south Forsyth County. Best decision we have ever made. A close friend of mine who still lives in our old district says only she and one other person showed up on curriculum night, and there were zero volunteers (besides my friend) throughout the year. Our new district had so many parents wanting to volunteer in the first-grade class that the teacher had to create extra lists just so parents could participate. And no, not all the parents were stay-at-home parents. Many of them work. They just make the time.