'Their report cards are a lie'

After spending tens of thousands of dollars in tuition at a Kelowna private school, David Brough found his Grade 2 son was reading and writing at or below a kindergarten level.

Prior to leaving Kelowna Waldorf School, his report cards said he had been meeting all expectations.

Brough's son is one of several former Waldorf students who have been left behind, Castanet has learned.

The Broughs were one of dozens of families who left the school last year, after political infighting drove many away.

Upon leaving, Brough had his son assessed by an education specialist before transferring to another school. His son didn't know the sounds of most letters in the alphabet.

“This is about students who are dramatically behind, while their report cards say they are at the levels they need to be,” Brough said. “Their report cards are a lie.”

His son's last report card stated that he met grade levels across the board, including spelling “high-usage words,” applying spelling knowledge, and printing and handwriting neatly.

“My kid can't spell at all today,” Brough said. “This is where I get angry.”

The assessor said she has seen similar reading and literacy issues with 10 other former Waldorf students.

“Typically, (they're) at least two to three years behind grade level in, not necessarily math, but in spelling and reading,” she said.

“It would be difficult to go into a public school ... even though they may be strong in some of the math skills, they don't know the vocabulary to read it. In my opinion, every subject, they're going to struggle in.”

As with Brough's son, her assessments contradicted many of the Waldorf report cards.

“I'm not sure what they're looking at to get those results,” she said. “I'm not sure how they're finding that they can read and yet they can't.”

Independent schools in B.C. receive government funding in addition to tuition from their students. For the 2016-17 school year, Kelowna Waldorf School received more than $500,000 from the province.

The Ministry of Education responded to several concerns at the school last year, but says the school complied with all requests for “adjustments to programs and reporting.” The ministry would not say what those changes were.

Other parents of former Waldorf students shared similar stories.

“My Grade 5 boy was at ... pretty much a Grade 1 reading level, and my Grade 3 boy was at a kindergarten reading level,” said Tammi Organ, whose two sons now attend public school in Alberta. “Everybody who assessed the kids, they don't believe there's any disabilities, because they're learning when they're given the opportunity.”

Jennifer Hales pulled her daughter out in Grade 2 last year.

“We asked her what sound does the letter B make, and she kind of looked at us like she had no clue what we were talking about,” Hales said. “That day was when we decided to pull her.”

In response to the parents' concerns, Rick Salsa, president of the school's board of trustees, said in an email: “I can say with confidence that our teachers and administrative staff make every effort to help all our students meet their expected grade levels.”

Salsa said he didn't have time for an interview.

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