One major issue facing educators today is the consistent low scores of the inner-city Blacks, the Hispanic, and the poor rural or urban White children known as low achievers. These low achievers have problems making the learning environment meaningful so that they can understand and do grade level work. Furthermore, because of this meaninglessness of the learning situation, they usually exhibit behavorial problems.
It has been noted that 25% of the population in the greater American society belong to the low-socio-economic class. Such a situation brings about serious handicaps for one child in four in the public school system. These students have difficulty because of: 1) a lack of motivation to success in school; 2) an inability to set goals and high level of aspiration; 3) a lack of desire to stay in school longer with children from a higher social class, and 4) an inability to work at the level of college preparatory courses.
Those students who are culturally and linguistically divergent, such as Black or Hispanic, meet very little success in school on a daily basis. Many students lack motivation and selfconfidence, and school is the last place they want to be. In order for these students to meet with some educational success it is necessary to group them. There are pros and cons to grouping students; however, we feel in New Haven that grouping is the best possible way that we can help elevate the low achiever so that he or she can get the help needed. On the con side of grouping students, Arthur Combs,
In Myths of Education
states that: “grouping students tends to isolate students from their fellow classmates, no matter how good the intention behind the method, it does more harm than good when seen from a broader perspective. This is also true of students segregated or left out because of scholarship as well as the lack of scholarship.” (Combs P. 220). I do not believe such separation involves isolation; rather it helps them learn on their level as a group, instead of competing or struggling in the classroom out of their depth.
The student is tested and correct placement is determined. The criteria for remedial grouping is to check the percentile rank of the student’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills score which is given every Spring. The students, mainly Black and Hispanic with a smattering of Caucasian, usually score very low on comprehension, word usage, and vocabulary skills. Unfortunately, many of the Hispanic students have trouble in this category. Like the rest, they are not dull students but only students who don’t see the need for learning new vocabulary, hence, the cycle of remediation. Poor vocabulary, poor word usage, and poor comprehension produce low scores; consequently, the student becomes a candidate for Chapter One.
The Chapter One Remedial Program is a Federally Funded Program which monitors each student’s progress semi-annually. Teachers must keep adequate records of lessons taught and be accountable for all records pertaining to the student’s academic growth. In my reading classes, I try to make the lessons challenging and interesting. Despite their innate eagerness of youth, I am aware that there is a sense of failure and uselessness that some students may feel. Some have convinced themselves that school work is not meaningful to them and have given up. Therefore, my challenge is to make them aware that learning is enjoyable and has meaning. It is imperative that the teacher link into those things that will make the students valuable and feel like opening up to learning. Ocassionally a student will put all the pieces together and need only one or two years of remedial reading. When this happens, it really makes a teacher feel a job was well done!