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.