10 July 2006

In the name of "intervention"

I am entering my 6th year of teaching with somewhat mixed emotions. For the past three years, I have taught 6th grade Language Arts and History and have enjoyed the experience very much. While at times the paperwork has been overwhelming, I have seen my students make tremendous strides from the beginning of the school year to the end. This upcoming year brings about a new challenge. Our school district is implementing a new reading intervention program for those students who are two to three years below grade level in reading. This program is called SRA REACH. It is a "direct instruction" program, which means for a big part of my teaching, I will be reading from a script.

You read it right - I'll be reading from a script and my students will be "trained" to respond in the way the program wants them to respond. According to those who are implementing this program, students who are in these types of interventions can make tremendous progress in a year, sometimes increasing their reading level by "up to two years." Those who may be thinking this is tracking - students test out at various times of the year and move up to the next intervention level. The hope is that for my 6th graders by the time they reach 8th grade, they will be on grade level. The theory is that when these kids reach high school, there will be no need for this type of intervention.

However, my 6th graders will be in my class for a three hour block of SRA Reach and a two hour block of intensive Math. This leaves them with one hour which will be in P.E. I worry that they will become even more disillusioned with school. Some kids actually like Science and History. If my incoming 6th graders are lucky, some of them will be able to experience those courses sometime in their 7th grade year, but probably more of them won't be able to experience it until 8th graders. Many of them will miss out on learning about the ancient Mesopotamians who invented the wheel and were responsible for creating the first real writing system. They will miss out on the wonders of Ancient Egypt and Ancient China, those two societies who worshipped their pharoahs and emperors like gods. Many will miss out on how our Founders came to look to the Greeks and Romans for a system of government which would come to be called "democracy."

While I understand the need for intervention, I wonder at what cost to my students and to myself. Is it fair to deprive them of half of their education in the name of catching them up to their peers? Will I be able to look them in the eye years down the road knowing that I was duplicitous in this educational deprivation? I guess time will tell or when the next tide turns in education reform, perhaps we will not let history repeat itself.

4 Comments:

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous eight year teacher said...

The scripted programs, one of which I 'teach' in middle school, seem to instill in youth a sense that learning and education are regimented and painful endeavors. In fact, unless a teacher can subvert the script with their own brilliance, many students seem to learn only to hate reading and learning.

And this is supposed to solve our criminally low HS graduation rates in LA?

Then again, with the pay we get, the unsafe dirty conditions we have to work in, and the mean pettiness of roving unbalanced administrative staff, many teachers just give up and do that which is only absolutely neccessary to get through another year.

Should I stay or should I go? (...to a charter school where I can actually teach...)

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

KDerosa swears by this type of thing. He says that the success they experience is the only thing that can motivate them and get them on track. I don't know if a numb brain counts as a prepared brain, but it might.

 
At 1:22 PM, Blogger Eve said...

KDerosa is a patent attorney, not a teacher or education researcher. I've been highly sceptical of what he says.

 
At 11:34 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I don't know... I think that you would find that you would like teaching at a charter school or private school more, but this is more a question of loyalty, right? Anyway, you can make a good decision.

 

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