Thursday, March 21, 2013

Could extra time be the solution?

Let's hypothesize that some kids enter first grade a year or two behind- they don't know letters or shapes or have a basic understanding of addition or subtraction.  And let's say the school moves them forward a year's worth of learning; they will still not be proficient on that year's tests.  And then the next year, if they make a year's worth of progress they will still not be proficient on the tests for that current grade.  If each year the children are actually proficient at a level a year or two behind their actual grade, then could it be that because they started behind they just need a year or two of extra schooling to attain a high school level education?  And that the answer might be to provide those who start at a disadvantage with a year or two of compensatory education, ideally in a way that is interesting and engaging so that they will want to attend, and maybe with some opportunities to earn some money? Could the solution be to give a little extra time to those who need it?


Anonymous said...

Good idea.but again we are working for a change in culture because right now we are fighting these same kids ( and their families!) not to drop out.

Questioner said...

That's where making things interesting and engaging, and offering opportunities to earn money, come in.

Anonymous said...

The basic answer to this is no -- because there are certain points that have to be met before further learning will occur. That is, if a child is reading at a third grade level from 3rd through 8th grade -- another year or two of high school isn't going to help. Some things need to happen *before* other things to have learning occur and be maintained.

What could work is grouping students by ability at the earliest grades -- the dreaded tracking, but in a different way. It can be done in a way that doesn't have the bad name or impact that overall tracking can have.

Right now, a K class is filled with everything from kids reading on a 2nd -4th grade level to kids who don't know their letters, let alone their letter sounds. Expecting a teacher to provide a suitable education for 30 students in that broad a range is asking a lot, especially with a scripted curriculum.

K kids are tested before school and through out the year -- it's not that they need to be tested more, it's that the results need to be put to better use.

If students were grouped based on their initial test results in a variety of areas, into small groups -- anywhere from 2-10 students -- for teaching of each of the requisite skills and then provided with work which would be done individually or in small groups with minimal supervision, we'd see a lot more progress. Students would receive instruction focused on their needs, exactly, rather than on a mishmash of skill levels. These instructional times do not need to be long chunks, either.

You would divvy up all the required skills from K-2 into manageable, testable packets and kids would start at the level they test into in both reading (writing) and math skills. These groupings would be flexible (based on quick, small assessments) and you would move on the next set of skills when you accomplished the ones you'd been working on.

Some kids might start at the very earliest beginnings of the skills and take 3 weeks to master each one. Others might start at the same place and only take 1 week to master the skills. Other kids would start at the beginning of reading skills, but half way through 1st grade level math skills, etc. This would entail multi-age groupings, as well, within a defined band.

The aim would be to have everyone at or above grade level before 3rd grade, at which point they would be able to begin reading for content. Science, social studies, and specials could be taught in small groups as well, or in mixed age, mixed ability groupings or in some combination of those choices.

There are schools that teach like this -- and that are able to recognize that a child struggling in 3rd grade may well be lacking just one component skill that was never well taught to them years earlier. Until that skill (or skills) is achieved, they will not progress.

A model like this is adaptable to children with various needs, as well. It's basically what special ed done well, does -- provide instruction at the right skill level, for the right amount of time/practice to insure the skill is learned.

Questioner said...

But do we know that most students who are below basic are staying at the same grade level for years on end rather than advancing a grade level each year ?

Anonymous said...

The losses are cumulative -- many kids in the BB level are scoring at the bottom of the test -- the PSSA doesn't measure how far below grade level they are, just that they are below grade level.

Students who are below basic are not going to get as much out of the grade level classes as the kids who were proficient or advanced in the previous spring.

A K student who is behind is closer to caught up than a 5th grade student whose skills are in the 1st-2nd grade range. 5th grade material, presented at a 5th grade pace, assuming that 4th grade levels of knowledge were attained is not going to be able to pick up as much information. That child can't read the texts fluently, doesn't have the vocabulary or comprehension skills of grade-level kids, etc.

Thus, they are not getting a true 5th grade education -- they're getting a 2nd grade level of understanding knowledge of 5th grade.

This compounds the problems.

Sadly, an easier way to close the gap is to provide test-prep only educations to all students. That at least helps to keep "the top" lower while hammering home the (fairly limited) range of skills tested on the state tests.

Anonymous said...

Is 3:57 an educator/teacher? Each of the six comments (paragraphs, with the possible exception of paragraph two) are intrinsically flawed as they reflect a serious misunderstanding of the skills needed at various grade levels as well as the capacity of children to fill in skill gaps with relative ease through appropriate instructional techniques.

Most importantly, test-prep-only strategies will not ensure proficiency at all and is, in fact, most frequently COUNTERPRODUCTIVE in the process of true acquisition of critical skills.

Questioner said...

It is not helpful to our discussion to state that another commentators statements are flawed without explaining what you feel is flawed about the statements.

Anonymous said...

A few points ring out here:
--the so called "gap"- not racial but knowing and unknowing for want of a better term is largest in Kindergarten-- as kids progress -- the gap gets smaller-- not enough, and the same kids may still be BB but it shrinks asd we do educate kids
--- while not "passing kids on" sounds good on paper- please think hard about these giant preadolescents with legs hanging over the aisles in your child's 3rd grade class... "social promotiuons" werent meant to help the student promoted-- they were for the good of the group.
--- teachign kids on level-- hmm soudns good too-- wasnt that what RTI was to do- small groups etc. and then--groups got to be huge, and low functioning can be also low on the behavioral scale too-- again bad times for the struggling student.

Anonymous said...

"Most importantly, test-prep-only strategies will not ensure proficiency at all and is, in fact, most frequently COUNTERPRODUCTIVE in the process of true acquisition of critical skills. "

Uh, I do believe that's what the person you're complaining about was saying -- did you catch the "sadly"? Doing test-prep would be bad for *everyone* academically, but it could decrease the gap by keeping kids from learning more.

Anonymous said...

Why exactly do you think that there would be gangly-legged, elderly third graders? You don't think that all children are capable of reading by third grade? Not capable, even with small group learning aimed directly at their needs?

That makes you pretty pessimistic.

Questioner said...

As discussed before there are students who don't learn because they don't attend school regularly, due to family or other issues.

Questioner said...

Also many students transfer in and out of Pps and nearby districts and may not have had the benefit of the targeted learning.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by targeted learning?

Questioner said...

Targeted learning was referring back to "small group learning aimed directly at their needs".

Anonymous said...

To clarify -- there is not teaching of this sort happening officially in the PPS. There isn't well-planned, targeted, small group learning happening.

"RTI" is a 30 minute mishmash of different ways of teaching performed by teachers of highly varying abilities and who often only see their RTI students at RTI time.

I have zero faith that the current administration could achieve anything like this.

However, in terms of behavior, etc. Those issues often arise because the teaching (and activities, groupwork, etc.) in the classroom is not appropriate for a lot of the kids. Feeling stupid, feeling like you have no idea what's going on and having it proved on tests is a great recipe for bad behavior.

Paging through the community report, I don't find a single elementary school with less than 90% attendance -- and most are far higher.

Questioner said...

There can be 90% attendance but still 20% of kids with actual attendance in the 70% range or less, balanced out by kids who attend 100% of the time. And it's not hard to predict which group is likely to be below basic.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Did I hear 13th grade as an option for some!

And, there is nothing wrong with repeating a grade if it makes sense to do so.

Both a solutions that can be viable for some students.

Anonymous said...

An AUDIT of what is being taught would reveal that our students are NOT being TAUGHT at grade level.

Therefore, it is not the fault of students that they are unable to perform at a "proficient" level.

'We', keep blaming and punishing the wrong persons for the failures in PPS.

Start with a curricula that is "scripted" or "managed" and required for teachers and students. Become aware of the level of content and skills that constitute that curricula. (AUDIT the curricula from an outside, competent, knowledgeable, honest entity.)

If the content and instruction is controlled by central office; it is neither the fault nor the responsibility of teachers or students that education in PPS is so far below par that the District is "494" out 500.

Why does the citizenry permit this type of travesty?

Anonymous said...

Take heed central office. There is often better advice here than will ever come from outside consultants.