The Forgotten Middle….

Public education people talk a lot about the achievement gap and making sure we serve our at risk students.  Kids who aren’t meeting grade level expectations are supposed to receive intervention from specialists who work in our schools.  At the elementary level children with reading struggles are supposed to meet with their teachers daily in small groups so that they don’t fall further behind and can catch up.  Same with children who struggle with math.  Elementary schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students receive additional funding and have significantly lower class sizes than schools in financially stable areas.

These are all good things.  PWCS has made tremendous strides in improving the academic performance of our economically disadvantaged and at risk students.  There’s much more we can and should be doing for these students.

Children who are assessed as gifted at the elementary level receive additional instruction on above grade level content in their pull outs.  Schools are given additional money for each gifted child so that they can hire resource teachers for gifted programs and purchase instructional materials for these students.  These are all good things.  There’s much more we can and should be doing for these students.

What public education people rarely talk about are the kids who aren’t at risk and haven’t been assessed as gifted.  These “average” kids have been forgotten by everyone.

If an “average” child has already mastered the grade level content for a particular subject or unit, he or she will get no additional instruction on topics above grade level standards.

It could be that this “average” child is capable of writing more complex reports, but since they only need to write three 4 sentence paragraphs to meet grade level standards, then three 4 sentence paragraphs is what they’ll be taught to write.

It could be this “average” child has already mastered adding and subtracting fractions and is ready to learn how to multiply and divide fractions, but since they only need to be able to add and subtract fractions to meet grade level standards, then adding and subtracting fractions is all they’ll be taught.

For “average” kids, it’s one size fits all grade level standards and nothing more.

You may hear that teachers differentiate.  There’s a difference between differentiating instruction and providing instruction on above grade level content.  Differentiation means your child will be given activities to “enhance their understanding of grade level content” – activities like building a board game or calculating the volume of the classroom in several different measures.  Differentiation DOES NOT mean that your child will receive instruction on above grade level content.

So the “average” kids who have already mastered the grade level content for a subject or unit get nothing more than meaningless busy work under the guise of “differentiation”.

Many of our teachers want to provide additional instruction to their students who have mastered grade level content.  Many are more than capable of doing so, but they don’t have the instructional materials needed to do it and wouldn’t have the time to provide it even if they did.

I think that’s unacceptable.  It sends a message to our “average” kids that they don’t matter; that they aren’t worth the effort.  If every child deserves an education that is appropriate for them, why are we doing nothing for so many kids?

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2 Responses to “The Forgotten Middle….”

  1. Mr. Glass Says:

    “If every child deserves an education that is appropriate for them, why are we doing nothing for so many kids?”
    The answer to this question is quite simple and something you have mentioned quite often in this blog- the money just isn’t there to support it. When a teacher has a 90 minute language arts block and a 75 minute math block they HAVE to teach the required SOLs. Take a look at the pacing guides available on the department websites and you will see that elementary teachers are stretched thin with class sizes in the upper 20s and a diverse population of needs to take care of. When a teacher has to choose between spending more time with a struggling reader or teaching advanced concepts to an average student who knows the material already, what does the school, county and state tell her to do? With SOL pressure, high class sizes, low funding and an evaluation that takes class data into account teachers feel like they have no choice but to leave these kids where they are and it is a terrible feeling. Struggling readers have reading specialists/special ed and gifted students have their resource teachers, but outside of the classroom teacher there is nobody else looking out for these kids.

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    Totally agree! I think it’s unfortunate because it means we are leaving a large number of kids behind and sending them a message that they don’t matter.


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