Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Standards Based Programs Move Too Fast with Too Much for Some

If you're an average learner which means you come to school with a solid foundation, positive experiences, academic support at home, and readiness to learn, the one-size-fits-all standards-based grade-level program is probably within your grasp, but if you come to school with a weak foundation, struggles at home, little to no academic support outside of school, and less readiness to learn, this program will be a reach for you and you'll almost always feel like you are behind. Is this fair? Is this good teaching?

We need to seriously consider the students who are not ready for the grade-level programs of teaching and learning, and help those students in different ways. We know that it doesn't help to place those students all into one group and try to help them--research has been shown that demonstrates problems with this approach. We also know that's not fair to teach them at a rate of learning and number of topics that is too fast and too much to embrace, we have to strike that just right learning rate and amount. We know these students can learn, and that to not regard their needs well will result in greater struggle, less confidence, and potential behavioral and emotional troubles too. So what do we do?

I believe that when a child lands in an area of teaching and learning that is more than one grade level behind his/her age mates, he/she needs a different program. At this point, I believe the program needs to be more like a reading recovery approach--a one or two student consistent approach with one or more highly skilled teachers who work with positivity and a blended learning program to fill in the gaps of the child's learning so that he/she can make very good progress. To create programs like this for children at early ages will save money, time, and troubles later on in a child's life and help them to reach the learning levels and abilities of their peers in better time with greater confidence. I think this is a way to make positive change. What do you think?

Currently our programs for these students include the following:
  • Help outside of the school day that equals about 10-15 days
  • Small group help during the school week - about twice a week with skilled teacher
  • Differentiated, multi-modal core program - 5 hours a week
  • Homework Practice - about 2 1/2 hours a week
  • Tech programs that sometimes move at a child's progression
  • Extra help sessions - varies in time and place
  • Homework club for some
  • We provide technology for students who are unable to have that technology at home - this has been positive. 
Our students do make progress as noted on standardized test growth scores, however when the numbers of students who fall behind the grade-level expectations grows, our ability to serve those students with the typical number of staff members wanes. 

Some ideas that may work include the following:
  • Testing new students upon arrival and providing those who are significantly behind with an intensive one-to-one or small group program to bring them up to the grade-level standards before joining the grade-level program.
  • Providing a two-tier consistent five-day-a-week core program with 1/2 project/problem standards-based heterogenous approach and 1/2 foundation skills with one-to-one or small group with a skilled teacher.
  • Providing a homework club for all students who lack at-home academic support.
  • Fostering parent-student programs to build these skills - enlisting parent support for all learners is very positive, and some parents are reluctant when it comes to supporting math education for many reasons. 
I will continue to think about this problem of practice in the days and weeks ahead. It's an area where I think we can continue to improve our collective practice, approach, and impact. I am open to your ideas.

Addition: This article relates to the discussion.