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Reading Instruction and Ability-Grouping
Subj:     Re: [Mpls] White Privilege, Parent Involvement and Vouchers
Date:     12/17/2001 3:45:22 PM Central Standard Time
From:     Gypsycurse7

In a message dated 12/17/2001 7:19:13 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> Many homeschoolers learn to read late without any stigmatization. Not all
>  kids are ready to learn to read in first grade. Sure, most of them can be
>  forced, but one of the many advantages of homeschooling is that learning can
>  take place according to the kids' timetable. Nine and even ten is not too
>  old to learn to read, but if a child has already been stuck in a dummy's
>  class, it is probably too late for the child to avoid considering himself a
>  failure.
>  Peace.

In most cases it is probably better for the homeschooling parent to delay the beginning of reading instruction than to "force" their child to learn how to read.  And in most cases the delay will do no harm, unless circumstances force a parent to abandon homeschooling without making any progress in this area.

It is also unlikely that any child can be "forced" to learn how to read at school, in my opinion.  That's because a child's "readiness" to learn how to read is often more a question of motivation than ability. In either case curriculum, learning strategies, and teaching expertise make a big difference.

 In a message dated 12/17/2001 7:44:13 AM Central Standard Time, Michael Atherton writes:

>  The solution is not necessarily homeschooling.  The idea would be to
>  to differentiate individual classes based on ability, not entire grades
>  or tracks.  So you might place a student in a reading class based
>  on their skill level, but that should not limit their development in every
>  other class.

In my opinion, it's better to have one primary classroom teacher for a group of students in grades K-4 than to divide their time between several different classroom teachers.  One teacher can get to know one group of students better than several groups.  It is also important to integrate the curriculum across subject areas in grades K-4 because the progress a child makes in one area is closely linked to progress in others.  This is especially true in the area of reading.  And it is necessary to set and achieve certain minimum expectations for reading skills development in order to keep a group of children on a particular track, such as a college-preparatory track.

There is also the issue of motivation.  The assignment of students entering the first grade to a not-ready-to-learn-how-to-read class reflects a teacher's estimate of their ability to learn how to read.  The students who are designated as low-ability learners get the message that they are stupid. They figure they can't succeed, so why try?

And ability-grouping is not the best way to accommodate individual differences in academic ability / skill levels, in my opinion. Adapting the curriculum to the skills level of a group isn't the same as individualizing the curriculum (course of study).  The reading curriculum, for example, can be individualized to a considerable degree because reading is an activity one can do independently after acquiring some basic reading skills.  That's what graded reading materials and computer-assisted learning activities (tutorials) are for.

-Doug Mann

Doug Mann for School Board