“Jason, please read the next few paragraphs,” requested Mr. Williams, a 9th-grade high school teacher. Jason paused, looked down at his text and asked, “Where are we?” Mr. Williams realized that Jason was not following along, but respectfully showed Jason where to begin. As Jason read, his classmates began to laugh at simple words he could not pronounce. Jason simply laughed along with them.
Today, there are many high school reading programs. One major problem with these reading programs is that the texts are still at a 9th-grade level. When you play a sport and you begin to not play well, you return to the basics. The same concept needs to be applied with reading programs. As a student in high school, my school and most schools throughout the state did not have a reading program. Students were not accepted into the next grade if they had a difficult time with literacy or if they failed a few classes.
Today, teachers must pass a certain percentage of students regardless of student performance. Obviously, this is unfair to both student and teacher. The teacher may lose his job and the student may be denied help as he continues to crawl through the upper-level grades. The biggest issue is where does this unwritten law come from? It comes from political leaders, school board committees, and departments of education, many of which who have no experience in education. Even our secretary of education, Arnie Duncan, has no teaching experience, yet he holds the top office in America.
Each state has a curriculum teachers must follow; however, the curriculum is often vague. Of course, teachers are told, “if you teach the curriculum, students should pass the standardized tests.” I was in a group of reading teachers and we took a 9th-grade standardized test with about 10 questions. Twenty-five percent of teachers had at least 2 wrong answers. Most standardized tests are usually not that difficult if the teacher does teach the curriculum correctly. The problem is how the test is portrayed, whether it be for how much money the school gets or how well a teacher has performed. Educational leaders seem to be looking more for perfection instead of progress.
Whether it is reading or math or another subject a student has a difficult time with, the solution is simple – confidence. Going back to the basics along with finding out what interests the student will build confidence. Also, there are often after school programs for tutoring. What if this student wants to participate in sports or another extra-curricular activity? Tutoring should be done during school. Since parents and teachers are often seen as authority figures, students should tutor students. It works in college and it will work in schools. Bringing knowledge, respect, and doing whatever it takes to help will give student a desire to learn and confidence. Success is a result of confidence and with confidence; a student will not be denied intelligence.