#14 Individualized Instruction? Oh, No!


I had dismissed my second grade class for the day and had sat down to grade papers, when a third grade teacher poked her head in the room and asked if she could speak to me. She did not have her happy face on. She said earlier in the day she had had a parent teacher conference along with the principal. She said the parents were upset because last year their child had left my class on a fourth grade level, and this year he had begun on a third grade level. This teacher had tried to explain her curriculum was third grade. Mistake. That did not go over well.

I asked what she would like me to do. I also noticed that it is possible for an adult's eyes to glow if they are angry enough. I wonder if you can guess what came next? This teacher stated she was hired to teach third grade, not fourth. She said students should leave my class at the end of a second grade level, no higher. She never wanted another student from my room to have a standardized test score above the end of second grade. She said I wasn't getting paid to do more, so do less. I told her I would consider what she said.

The next day I had a surprise visit from the principal, complete with clicking heels and yellow scribing notebook. She stayed for an hour, hand ferociously writing the whole time. When she left she asked if she could meet with me in my classroom after school. I acquiesced since it was obviously a rhetorical question.

She was at my door with notebook in hand. She sat down and told me what she noticed. I am going to tell you what was going on in my classroom because I may need to include background information. Four students were at a computer at the back of my room doing a 15 minute math program and a 15 minute reading program. I had applied for a Mini-Grant entitled, "A Spelunking We Will Go". There was a round tent in the back of the room set up to look like a cave. Inside the cave, there were 4 science experiments to do as well as reading the book Caves by Gail Gibbons, and two girls were in the tent. There was a group of six students in a Literacy Circle. Six students were reading independently, and three groups of two were partner reading.

She said she was going to give me a suggestion because of the four ADHD students I had in my room. She said every child should be doing the same thing at all times. She said there was  movement in my room, (Guilty), and that was too distracting to the ADHD kids. I suggested that perhaps those students could have been separated when class groupings were made. Why do you think the principal made this suggestion to me? Was she really concerned with the ADHD students?

The math program on the computer gives a detailed grade level. Teachers have a reading program used to tell an exact reading grade. Although it tests to level 8.0, we are required to stop at level 3.4, Most of my class met the 3.4 goal. We had a writing program called Empowering Writers. Writing papers were graded by the reading and second grade teachers. Grading was from 0-12. Most of my class got a 9-12. Soon after, the reading level was dropped to a maximum of 2.8 and the schools stopped using the math program. Why do you think the end of year math program was dropped and the reading level was dropped from level 3.4 to level 2.8?

I told the principal I would consider what she said, and I did for all of 5 seconds. These wonderful students deserve an individualized program just for them, not clumped together like a corporation. Parents should have the expectation their child will achieve one year's growth. If their child is not on grade level, parents should expect their child to achieve grade level, and then succeed to the end of  the current grade. It is the school's responsibility to do this.


Colorful Ice Cube Trays by Justin CC BY 2.0


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