My 7th grade son came home and told me he is in the “dummy” math class. I was completely taken aback by this, and asked what he meant. “Well,” he stated, “there is an AP math class and an Advanced AP math class, then mine…the dummy math class.” Apparently, he is not “smart” enough to be in the advanced classes, and the only other option is the remedial group – no middle ground. He tells me that his math teacher loves him, because he is “ the smartest kid in [his] math class,” which makes me wonder whether or not he is really challenged or pushed in this class. He is in danger of slipping through the cracks because he does not seem to “fit” into a specific group as defined by the school. There are no available math classes for kids who would be considered “normal.”
My daughter always tested at 50% on standardized tests in elementary school, but most of the other kids test either above or below that benchmark, leaving a wide open space where my daughter should be. That means no funding for students like her – who just need an extra little boost to help her to succeed, not fully remedial instruction. The teacher knew she was smart, but sometimes she would fall behind in class because the pace was a little too fast for her, and she was bored in the “lower” level classes. So, whenever there was a parent or a teacher’s aide working with the class who knew my daughter’s struggles, that adult would sometimes “sneak” my daughter in with some of the other students getting extra help. In 2nd-5th grade, she was “invited” to go to summer school and some before-school tutoring for some extra help. By the time she entered 6th grade, her teacher was very impressed with her, and couldn’t believe she ever needed the additional help. Now she is succeeding at her first year in college.
My children don’t need to be in any AP classes or learning deficient classes, they just need “typical” classes. As a parent, it’s hard to see a system that doesn’t cater to “average ability” children. It seems that there are books written for all sorts of unique students: Teaching Kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom, Teaching Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom, and Managing ADHD in the K-8 Classroom, but perhaps we are so busy attending to students who have special needs (learning disabilities or gifted and talented) that we are missing the student who performs at the appropriate grade level. All children deserve the opportunity to have the best education for their needs.
Thankfully, my daughter had people looking out for her, and I hope that my son will soon have those advocates as well. Teachers are stretched thin as it is, and I am grateful for those teachers who have the energy to work with each and every one of her or his students at the appropriate level of ability. It’s my hope that such a balance exists and is pushed for, and that children like mine have the chance to be challenged and to succeed.