Pass or Fail: Intervention for Struggling Students
In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.
While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?
What measures can be taken to swiftly and effectively address difficulties students may be experiencing academically?
Arguably, multiage classrooms can deliver developmental support more effectively than graded classes because teachers will have had the time to get to know the needs of individual children, and will have had the time to put together remedial lessons carefully tailored to the particular needs of specific students.
Schools must, however, organize interventions into levels that represent an increase of support where warranted, including universal interventions when available, but extending to tutoring and other intensive interventions.
Having effective tiered intervention strategies depends on having accurate diagnostic information and data. One of the targets for multiage classrooms at the elementary level could be the gathering of diagnostic information and data over a period of several years, the goal being not only to support struggling learners in the earlier stages of their education but to use the earlier stages of their education as a diagnostic phase to interpret future developments. Students with learning disabilities and other developmental problems could be better supported in a school system that allows them to develop a strong relationship with a given teacher or group of teachers. Such teachers, perhaps in collaboration with specialist support staff, could direct early diagnostic efforts and targeted interventions to prepare a child for high school and beyond.
One widely used approach for interventions is to provide tiered levels. The first level begins with evidence-based instruction and support, provided to all students. Students receive more specialized prevention or remediation within the general education setting when a teacher notes that they are struggling academically, socially, or behaviorally. The second tier of support is provided to students who have not been successful with the universal interventions. More intensive, targeted interventions may be used at the second level, including progress monitoring.
A key need, though, is to provide struggling students supplemental instruction –modified teaching strategies, and other modes of specially designed instruction. Moreover, remedial learning resources are tailored to individual students, with the understanding that different students benefit from different types of strategies and interventions.
The available resources would need to be put in place in the multiage classroom, taking advantage of the resources available, including peer tutoring and the possibility of developing a deep, long-term relationship with the teacher. A teacher should never teach down to the student or change the material to make it possible for a student to master just enough content to pass a certain test. Rather, teachers should be able to work within the school system to teach the student. Teachers must be able to recognize how each student learns and be able to find ways to apply the right teaching methods to reach the student with content – including higher-level content.
Intended Curriculum Outcomes
The emphasis of the curriculum would also need to be on the outcome rather than on a limited, grade-like parameter. Unlike the No Child Left Behind Act, which only requires that students be able to read at a “graded” level, the goal should be to develop literacy to allow students to take ownership of the skill and be able to apply it, developing themselves as citizens and as individuals. Speaking more practically, the goal should be to inspire students to take ownership of literacy so that they can apply their reading comprehension skills throughout their education and in their professional and personal lives, to truly enjoy and appreciate works of literature as works of art.
Do you think a redesigned classroom model could ultimately support altered learning outcome goals that focus on developing the individual?