Saturday, February 21, 2009

No Child Left Behind...Yeah Right!

I was in Starbucks and on the counter at the register was a copy of a newspaper called The Good Sheet. It’s a weekly series breaking down an important issue to help make sense of the world around us. This issue happened to be about the need for school reform. As you could imagine, as a Learning Coach my interest was piqued.

The American public education system is as varied as the students who pass through its 98,905 schools. No Child Left Behind, the 2002 law that ties federal funding and sanctions to gains in standardized test scores, is heralded by some and criticized by others. What nearly everyone agrees on is that our schools could do better.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress test is the only national exam that assesses student performance. The latest figures are not encouraging. When looking at the Grade 4 Reading Performance percentages on a national scale, we see that 68% of America’s youth are BELOW PROFICIENT!

How can this be happening? In the state of Ohio, reading instruction and practice lasts 90 minutes or more every day. Before and after-school help is given to all students beyond Grade 1 needing extra instruction or review. And summer school is available for students who are behind at the end of the year. Teachers are instructing the children by day and the parents are reinforcing schoolwork at home by night. However, when we investigate the issue of reading standards falling at an alarming rate, we see that teachers are being forced to teach narrowly to the test and that students who learn in different ways are put to a disadvantage.

Education, like any other business has been streamlined. It is all about creating a system of uniform structure and controls in order to improve performance, reduce costs and ensure compliance. But we are not talking about manufacturing products here we’re talking about cultivating human beings; unique, complex and tenderhearted little ones who are counting on the more experienced adults to make sense of this often nonsensical world.

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. Why is it that writers write but grocers don’t groce? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? Imagine the frustration of a child reading “When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.” If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? Learning how to read and spell is a daunting task at best. What if your child’s learning style is not the primary one used at school in instruction or testing? What if this streamlined approach doesn’t best support your child? Is more of this approach in the form of summer school really the answer? Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again but hoping for a different result?

As a parent, I faced this same dilemma. I reached the crossroad and had to make a choice. I decided to take matters into my own hands and reach for a learning solution which was not the norm but was exactly what my child needed. I needed to find methods of learning which supported the way in which my child best took in information, processed information and presented back information. When it comes to help with reading, there is no other reading program which addresses focus and attention issues as it addresses fluency and comprehension like The Davis Dyslexia Correction Method. If your child has ADD/ADHD, auditory processing issues, auditory discrimination issues, low phonemic awareness, is a visual or kinesthetic learner and is having trouble benchmarking, check out the web page … You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blog Tights

I was shopping in TJ Maxx the other day and came upon a display of socks and tights. I noticed a pair of very stylish patterned tights labeled as “one size fits all.” I almost laughed out loud. How ridiculous! The word “all” means “the whole of; everyone of.” In an instant I thought of four friends of mine each having a different body type, height and weight. In no way would this one pair of tights fit comfortably on each of them. Ah ha, that marketing/advertising ploy would not get the best of me. So, despite the fact that the tights were pretty cool looking and were highly discounted, I pushed my cart along until I could find something more customized to fit my needs.

It got me thinking that we are faced with that same marketing/advertising tactic of “one size fits all” in our education system. It is common knowledge that not all students think alike. The term “Learning Style” was coined to describe the different ways which an individual optimally takes in, processes, stores, retrieves and presents information. Yet, when we look at the bulk of the teaching being given in the classroom, it favors one learning style more than all of the rest.

What happens when your child doesn’t learn in the “one size fits all” fashion? What happens when your child misses key concepts and ideas because the lesson plan doesn’t fit with his learning style? Well, what happens is …confusion followed by a lag in performance. If you wait long enough, what comes next is frustration, tears, anger, self-doubt and loss of self-esteem.

The whole concept of Differentiated Instruction was put forth to educators to acknowledge that lesson plans should be designed to help students learn concepts and idea in a format which best fits his/her learning style. This means that educators, intervention specialists and parents need to not only recognize the learning style of the struggling child, but become flexible and adapt the instructional approach accordingly. The method should be modified to the student rather than the student having to modify himself for the curriculum sake.

While all children are responsible for the same educational information in the end, some might need customized instructional approaches to best meet the needs of their learning styles at the start. If your child is a visual, spatial or kinesthetic learner, an auditory approach is not the best fit. An auditory approach might be the standard in your child’s classroom, more comfortable for the teacher, easier to administrate but not what is best for your child.

You might not know your child’s learning style and your journey might begin at this point by researching the topic and doing your best to identify it. See Gifted Development and Appendix C has characteristics and comparisons of the auditory-sequential learner and the visual-spatial learner. If your child has visual-spatial learning style characteristics, your answer is The Davis Method. Changing the approach to how your child learns will make all of the difference. What have you got to lose by visiting Open Door Learning Center to see if this kind of intervention is right for you or your child?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Under Construction

This blog is currently under construction.

Please check back at a later date.