Before I begin this bit of emotionally charged post (at least for me) I need to center myself with a picture of beauty and peace!
You see my post begins where I left them asleep on the couch to go get our son from school. I headed over to pick him up and remembered that I wanted to talk to Mrs. M (Special Ed teacher) about Chase no longer reading at grade level. I mean, we talk to Mrs. M every day and not once in the past month has she mentioned that he was going down hill. She said that he struggled with not being able to sit still or focus in a classroom of 20+ kids, but well I didn’t think that would mean going down hill. I asked her and she got this kind of sheepish look on her face.
“I talked to Mrs. S about that. When he is down here with me he seems to be doing just fine. He is able to do everything that she sends down with him with no problems. The problem is that I don’t see what they are doing down there every day so I just keep trucking along. I talked to her and she said he just did another DAR (which is a diagnostic assessment of reading) and he did really poorly. She is going to send some of the booklets down here and I am going to see how he does with them in here, but they won’t count in my classroom.”
She paused to take a breath and i interjected. “Isn’t DAR a test? And shouldn’t he be taking assessments in an alternative setting.”
“Well, all students take this assessment in the classroom. They don’t want the children taken out of the classroom, or have the special education teachers administering the DAR.” She said as she looked down at her desk and organized papers in front of her.
“I don’t understand? Why can’t it be done in an alternative setting? I mean, not every person can focus in a situation like that, it kind of skews things, doesn’t it?” At which point Chase comes to give me a hug, loses his balance and falls into the desk. I pick him up and he is laughing/crying and hugs me as hard as he can, After our snuggle I shew him off, “Honey, go get your book-bag”
He leaves and she continues, “Well, It is state mandated and all children, whether or not they are in special ed, have to take it in the classroom. The teacher still administers it one on one with each child, but it is done in the classroom while the other students are working independently”
Here I am imagining a classroom full of 20+ children between the ages of 6-7 “working” independently and I can just image the torture Chase is experiencing. Chase sometimes cries when his sister whispers, he gets distracted by the slightest sound and they expect him to be “on grade level” after an assessment taken in this environment. Where is the reliable factor of the assessment? My poor sensory overloaded son. No wonder he is struggling. So I respond after a brief pause, “Oh, um, is this common core?”
“Yes, but we are all doing the best that we can, and . . . . . . . ” Her discomfort was palpable. It sounded like she was either apologizing or defending but I’m not sure which. I KNOW that they are doing the best they can. They are ALL working hard to provide my son with the skills he will need as he grows in intellect.
I nod my head and Chase comes barreling into the room again. He does this little twirl and loudly says, “Okay mom, I’m ready.”
I smile at Mrs. M. “Has he been like this all day”, He leans into me, climbs into my lap and begins to rock me back and forth.
“Yeah, and unfortunately he has almost all frowns in Mrs. S’s class today. She wrote you some notes letting you know what happened. He did finally settle down in the afternoon. But, he has been all over the place and fidgety. Just like that” Said as Chase is now trying to wrap up in the curtain.
“Mom, come ooooooonnnnnnn!” He picks up his back pack, puts on his coat for the third time,hands me his lunch box and walks towards the door. After a few more seconds of farewells we leave. I look in his backpack and indeed he has all frowns in regular ed, and all smiles and straight faces (which we are HAPPY with) in Mrs. M’s room. Interestingly enough, I think in the last month Chase has had one day with a frowny face in Mrs. M’s room and once did he NOT have one in his regular class with 20+ other kiddos. I think he is not so subtly trying to tell us something!
As I drove home I stewed over our conversation. In the classroom teachers are faced with the daunting job of providing instruction for children that are as diverse as each snowflake that falls in a snow storm. Several years ago I finished my Masters of Education in reading and I realize how passionately I felt that teachers be aware that their students are different, and learn in a variety of ways at varying levels. Assessment drives instruction. The end result is always kept in focus. When necessary and appropriate the teacher modifies instruction both in delivery and content for those students that need it. Instruction is for all students, no matter what level they are at.
I haven’t been in the classroom for three years. Where has this ideology gone?????? Students are unique and different, and so are the ways that they learn. Learning to read is a complicated process, therefore student’s need to find the best way to approach that process. Education is NOT “one size fits all”, but apparently those at the state level don’t necessarily agree!
Okay, off my soap box. I’ll wind this verbose post to a close. My next post will be short and sweet. I promise!!!!! Oh, and I shall leave us as we began, with a picture of peace and beauty!!!