The picture for today’s post is of my desk chair. A few months back, I noticed about an inch-long tear in it. Then, a couple of months ago I purchased a repair kit to fix it. Well, here we are today, the tear is still there, without any patch, but now it is about four times longer than the original cut. This tear is a symbol for life in that when we leave the slight fractures unattended, they grow into larger cracks.
The same runs true for a child’s education, when not addressed slight deficits in learning become huge gaps in knowledge. It is why early intervention is so crucial. I am not just talking about early intervention on a teacher’s part, but on the need for increased early childhood education. The past few years there has been an off-and-on emphasis on expanding early childhood education, though the spotlight dims when the costs of adding extra programs is presented. Formal schooling does not need to begin at age two or three, however, we need to ensure our youngest members of society are receiving proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, and a solid literacy foundation.
Once students enter formal education, teachers have to be vigilant in monitoring students’ progress to ensure students are learning. All students performing at grade level expectations is the purpose for Response to Intervention (RtI). In my recent work with striving middle school readers, I see the detrimental effects of unattended cracks in a literacy foundation. An instructional coach even asked me, “How is it students are coming to us this far behind?” It is extremely hard for students enrolled in the seventh grade to be successful when they are reading at a third-grade level. It not only impacts literacy instruction, but also all the content areas due to students not being able to comprehend grade-level textbooks. Not only are the students academically underwater, they are emotionally impacted due to their knowledge of their deficits. Motivation is further declined as a result of multiple years of failure on state assessments.
What can be done? The answer is fixing the tear when it starts to form; this usually is the first grade. A study conducted by Juel, found that “88% of the children who scored in the lowest quartile for reading comprehension at the end of 1st grade continued to score below the 50th percentile at the end of 4th grade” (Jenkins, et al., E-Journal of Teaching & Learning in Diverse Settings 2(1), p. 126). We need to provide our primary grades teachers with the knowledge and resources for teaching all readers, especially our strivers. We need to ensure our young readers have access to books and plenty of them. Additionally, this should not come at the cost of other content areas, so time needs to be created in the academic day for them to receive the support necessary for success. Another idea is to extend the academic day for our younger students to provide the extra learning. If not repaired, as time goes on the tear multiplies in size.