Finally, I decided to try a different tact. I got her a tutor for math and was pleased to see progress. Her review sheets and homeworks were all receiving A's and she was feeling better about her skills. Last week she took her first test since getting the tutor. She was well prepared and looking forward to success. She got a 75%.
How did this happen? She got an A on the review sheet, her tutor said she was ready. What went wrong? I looked at the test and noticed that, on a four page test (yes, four pages!), she got everything correct on the first three pages. On page four, she got everything wrong.
It turns out that Ali is a slow processor. Okay, this is really nothing new. She has always needed time, after hearing a direction, to actually begin the task. She needs lots of wait time during discussions. We have always just dealt with this at home. In school, it never affected her before because tests were never timed or were never so long. She was always the last one finished with a test, but managed to do well. She understood, as I do, that speed has NOTHING to do with intelligence and skill.
So I emailed her teacher and asked if it would be possible, as it was in 7th grade, for Ali to complete the tests during lunch. I didn't want her to get extra help. I just wanted her to feel proud of her capabilities and being timed was not working for her. The response I got was an emphatic no. "Honors students never get extra time for tests. They don't need it. Only children with IEPs get extra time." Translation - if Ali needs extra time, she does not belong in the honors class.
Frustrated, I discussed this situation with my co-teacher, Christine, and my aide, who has two classified children of her own. It started a discussion about the children in school who are not classified. In our classroom, we give every child what he/she needs. Who decided that only classified students need extra time or computers to type stories or fidget toys to play with or breaks during lessons? Why have we allowed ourselves to cater only to classified children in this way? Why is it acceptable?
It is my belief that every child has special needs. Some are obvious and those students usually have IEPs. But some are not. Do you have a student who is capable of being successful on a test if he/she just had ten more minutes to finish? Do you have a student who understands a complicated book if it is read to him/her? Do you have a student who starts to fade halfway through your lesson? Do you have a student who can explain content verbally better than in writing? Why not give all of these students what they need, even if you don't have a piece of paper telling you you need to do so? Shouldn't every child have the opportunity to be successful?
It is time to really embrace differentiated instruction. Stop waiting for a piece of paper to tell you you need to offer services. Look around. What do you see? How can you help your children be successful in all areas? In the end, you will have those "fall through the cracks" students succeeding like never before, the classified students not feeling so obvious about their disabilities, and the top students finding that they have skills they didn't even know existed. Shouldn't we all want this?
'Just Keep Walking' www.flickr.com/photos/51035677132@N01/1416909158