This has been a tough year. As most of you might not know, our schools have two tracks, the low and the advanced classes. From the early elementary years, one track is being prepared for college/university, while the other, low track, is being prepared to graduate high school. I am still trying to grasp how hard it is to make a transition out of the low group once pegged as a member.
I teach a class with low students. So many of my students needed one-on-one help on daily basis that more than often I felt that we are really doing disservice by this type of grouping (segregation). The whole idea of integration in education was so that students with lower academic achievement can benefit from their peers who are higher achievers, regardless of race and socio-economic status.
“Regular track” (classes with lower testing students) have disproportionately high numbers of students that need help in more than one area, have learning disability and/or have trouble with focus.
One thing that all students who test low on standardized tests have in common is low reading comprehension. They can read the words, but they don’t know what they mean. They are unable to connect their reading to their prior knowledge or even make a guess as to how reading can make actual real life sense.
Conference after conference I have asked parents to read with their kids. Even though they are upper elementary and many older than 11, they all would benefit from learning how to actively think about what is being read. Many promised to follow through, but I am not sure if my advice was followed for longer than a couple of instances.
What separates high achieving students from those who are not is that the high achieving students have come to school with a bank of knowledge about the world, science, and society, which cannot be easily taught in the classroom.
As students get older, text becomes more complex and demanding, which causes many students to simply shut down academically as they become aware of the huge gap in knowledge that seems impossible to bridge.
It seems so simple and insignificant that an easy act of wide reading from an early age can give students such tremendous head start, but it is really that simple. Reading is essential if students are to excel in all subjects. A lot of math requires reading word problems, which carry the most weight in scoring. Everything is built on the foundation of reading. No way of escaping it.