Tackling the challenge of achievement gaps is daunting. And then throw in the variables of differing sets of terms, requirements and regulations that drive both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This challenge plays out at the district level where students with Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are for the most part, taught and supported by both general and special educators. Both sets of educators bring various attributes to the table: training, expertise, instructional tools and data sets, mindsets and experience, among others. In the midst of this sits the individual student, with attributes that must be understood and built upon to assure his/her learning.
“Don’t we know by now that poor kids can’t learn? Their parents are really kids themselves. They don’t have resources at home. They can’t help that. They’re kids. Why are we putting so much pressure on them? And if we are being honest with ourselves, it’s ten times worse if we lump in the ESL kids, the disabled kids and, Lord help me, those special ed kids!”
During my first week as a third-grade teacher in the Rio Grande Valley, I was immediately confronted by the English language learner (ELL) achievement gap. Results from a diagnostic reading assessment I administered showed that not a single one of my students was reading on grade level and four of my students were actually reading below a first-grade level. One of my students did not know how to write his first name.
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