We are on our way
This year the district purchased a reading intervention program to help narrow the reading gap. Many people who are not in education don’t realize that so many students make it to high school and either can’t read or read dramatically below grade level. Some freshman and sophomore students are reading on a third or fourth grade reading level.
The class was designed to be an intensive intervention program comprised of reading stations along with a computer program. It is taught within a block period daily approximately ninety minutes in length. In theory, it sounded like a wonderful program, yet in practice it was set up for failure.
I was one of three teachers assigned to the class. Actually, I was the fifth teacher brought in to try and get the situation under control. The previous teachers had not lasted more than a period or a day at the most. One teacher thought it was her opportunity to catch up on some reading. Needless to say, the odds were not in my favor that I would be any more successful than the others.
The class was at the end of the day and it was located in the V-wing, the windowless basement section of the school that many people do not encounter unless they take auto mechanics. The room was very moved from the general population and the regular distribution of classes. Therefore, there were no security guards, cameras or administrators in this section of the school. When we phoned for assistance which was often someone would respond that they were on their way, but never arrive. Maybe they got lost. I’m not sure. You might think because it was so far away, but after that we didn’t bother phoning when we realized that “We are on our way” meant “We aren’t coming”.
There were so many problems with the class one of which was the class size. The reading program was developed to accommodate eight to ten students maximum considering the need of each student and the individualized attention necessary to assist them. Our class had more than double the recommended size for an effective program. With twenty-five students we were at a loss.
At the same time, many of the students were English Language Learners. Neither I nor any of the other teachers were trained in accommodating these students. No wonder the students couldn’t read in English, they couldn’t speak English. What they needed was an English as a Second Language class not a reading intervention class. The administrator assumed that the students belonged in a reading intervention program because they didn’t speak English. To make matters worse there was no test to determine reading ability in their first language. Frustrated with the whole design of the class I confronted my administrator. Her response, ”If they can’t speak English they must be illiterate”.
The most pressing issue was the behavior. To state nicely, these students were unmotivated. They all spoke Spanish, they were all friends, and they couldn’t do any of the lessons because they couldn’t read, write or speak English. Sounds like a party, right? One in which none of the teachers were invited to.