I have a student; for this post, we'll call her Lisbeth. She is in one of my honors ELA classes this year. In our district, placement in this class can be overridden my a parent request in spite of teacher recommendation. Now, I am not here to debate this practice, because as their teacher, it is my responsibility to educate every child that is in my classroom. Lisbeth is one of those students whose parent placed her in honors classes.
As I got to know my students, I observed that Lisbeth often took a great deal of time in completing any classroom assignment or project. In spite of the extended time in class and at home, she was actively engaged in her work and she demonstrated mastery in content area standards. She provided her peers with deep and insightful feedback. When she read aloud (yes, she volunteers), she struggles to decode words and lacks fluency. She demonstrates great reading and word strategies as well as endurance when tackling new words or text. Doing some one-on-one work with her, I discovered that although she lacked fluency, her comprehension far exceeded many of her peers.
From my experience, I wanted to conclude that her lack of fluency and the extra time that she needed to complete tasks was not something to focus on. Also, I did not want to make any decisions regarding her obstacles that could potentially damage her self-confidence.
As an educator of middle level students, I don't often need to work with students who lack fluency (unless it's also tied to other reading deficiencies). Although my instinct told me that since Lisbeth was still finding success, I didn't need to go into rigorous lessons on fluency, I lacked that data to substantiate that decision. That's when I turned to two highly accomplished K-3 educators. Dr. Gay Barnes and Kim Bowen both who have years of experience in positively impacting student learning, especially in reading. They are vocal advocates for doing what is best for students regardless of whatever trend is blowing through education. I knew they would really listen to all of my observations and the conclusions that I have drawn regarding Lisbeth and give me honest feedback and recommendations.
As we spoke, they came to the same conclusions that I did, but they recommended that I conduct a Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI) in order to evaluate if I was missing something in diagnosing Lisbeth and designing the appropriate support for her learning. I hadn't thought of a QRI in thirteen years. Although time consuming, those assessments provide the data I had been lacking regarding the conclusions I had drawn.
Without my conversation with Gay and Kim, I could have easily misdiagnosed what Lisbeth needed. It could have had a negative impact upon her growth professionally and personally. We all need Gays and Kims in our lives who can provide us with honest insight, feedback, and expertise so that we can provide our learners with the best learning opportunities possible.
As we begin a new week, let's all be mindful of the breadth and depth of experience we have around us, both face-to face and digitally. Let's harness that collective and channel it into empowering our students with the best support system possible.