Below is part of a response which I had written to another poster’s comments to me, on a local journalist’s blog from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on July 27, 2012. The response explains why there are myriad instructional levels within each grade level. My original post has been slightly edited, below.
“When I was in graduate school earning my M.Ed. as a Reading Specialist, I was taught by the head of that department that the higher the grade level, the greater the range of instructional levels there will be within the grade level. The professor said that that fact would always be true because of the multiple variables of students’ backgrounds, ability levels, needs, etc. Teachers would need to be taught how to instruct to those varied instructional needs within each grade level. I found that to be true in my following 30 years of practice, first as an Instructional Lead Teacher k – 7 and, later, as a high school Reading Department Chair and advanced reading teacher. As an Instructional Lead Teacher, I had monitored all of the students’ progress (600 to 700 students yearly) in my school in grades 1 – 7, for both reading and mathematics advancement. The school was a model instructional school of multiaged groupings and it had a continuous progress instructional design, for each student to be able to reach his/her optimum growth per year. The principal had been the former Associate Superintendent of Instruction for a large metro Atlanta county school system. Later, as a Reading Department Chair of a high school which contained approximately 1800 students yearly, I designed and supervised the in-house reading testing of every student in the high school through working with English teachers. Results were shared with the English, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics Department Chairs to share those reading scores with their teachers so that instruction could be more targeted to individual need. The range of reading scores for the 9th graders, alone, for over a decade was from 4th grade reading level to grade level 16 (college senior level) and 50% of those 9th graders were reading on 6th grade level or below.
During my educational career, I was about the business of teacher training so that teachers were better able to instruct with detailed knowledge and I was about the business of inservicing parents to better understand instructional phenomena so that the parents would know better how to remediate the instructional problems their children might have had, by working with teachers. I am not about making generalized condemnations of teachers, students, or parents. I want to see all increase in their instructional awareness and in their knowledge of how to use specific students’ standardized test scores to enhance their academic growth.
For example, in the elementary school discussed on this thread because of the number of students failing to meet the proficiency requirements for their grade level – as one possibility – 66.6% of the 4th grade students may have failed the proficiency level for the 4th grade standardized reading test, but 33.4% of those 4th grade students were functioning at least on 4th grade level, or above, and some in that group may have been functioning on 5th or 6th grade level, or higher. Moreover, of the 66.6% who failed to meet 4th grade proficiency in 4th grade, 40.6% may have been able to have met proficiency on the 3rd grade standardized reading test, 15% may have been able to have met proficiency the 2nd grade standardized reading test, and 5% may have only been able to meet proficiency on the lst grade standardized reading test. Now the question becomes WHY are students scores so varied (as my college professor 40 years ago said would be true)? I know of many, many reasons why – some of which I identify in the link on “Mastery Learning, provided below. Those reasons must be looked into with great detail and care, and the reasons why must be shared with teachers in great detail – for each student – so that effective teaching can occur. To think that all students will achieve the same mastery of skills, on a given curriculum continuum, at the same point in time is not realistic. As educators, we must certainly do better, but we must do so through intelligent, informed, detailed analysis, shared with teachers and parents alike, so that instruction can not only be targeted effectively but so that each student will meet with success on his or her correctly analyzed and placed instructional level, throughout his or her 12 year school career (whatever his or her year in school or grade level).
In the link below, I write with more detail of Mastery Learning:http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/about-education-essay-1-mastery-learning/ =================================================
Additional story to share with readers regarding the myriad instructional levels that exist within each grade level:
When I was an Instructional Lead Teacher, about 30 years ago, I was attending an administrative meeting within in my school system with my principal. During the question and answer part of that meeting, I raised my hand to ask the Superintendent of Schools, publicly, if he thought that the school system would ever implement a continuous progress format for students through 12th grade, instead of only through 7th grade, as was currently being done. He answered in response to my question, “I dream about that happening one day, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.”
That kind of educational awareness must start to become reality because over one-third of Georgia’s high school students quit high school early. Many of these students have been trying to function on their academic frustration levels for many years, and the demoralization and stress that come with trying to function on their frustration levels are not possible to sustain, over time. Thus, many of these students will choose to drop out of school.
Perhaps designing high school programs in which continuous progress programs for students might continue through 12th grade, instead of stopping at 8th grade, should be considered. That would mean that some students would take longer than 12 years to receive their high school diplomas. However, would not taking longer to achieve the same mastery of high school curriculum be preferred to having 33+% of the student population quit high school early, often because they see no hope of graduating within the time span as currently designed?
See data in the links below for Georgia’s high school graduation rate and prison/drop out correlation: