Thursday, December 4, 2008

C is not for cookie

Yesterday my AP came to see me. I was wary, because I thought she was coming to switch around my reading groups, but it wasn't that. Instead, it was worse: She came to ask me why some of my kids' reading levels didn't go up.

She was especially interested in my students who are still reading at level B, who are primarily non-English speakers. She kept asking if I was sure they weren't ready for C, as if I wasn't keeping track of their abilities and they had magically developed a robust sight word vocabulary and decoding skills overnight. She also made it seem like since they do have one-to-one correspondence, they should be ready for C books. But in my opinion, the leap from B to C requires the biggest jump in reading ability. At level B, all they have to be able to do is match the number of words. For example, if the book reads, "We play music," and the child says, "I love reading," the child is correct! Simply because they know that there are three distinct words on the page. (Believe it or not, this is a huge and difficult skill for kids to master.) But in order to read level C books independently, we expect them to read the words accurately. My English language learners have one-to-one correspondence and they can even memorize the patterns in their books, but they still cannot decode, they don't possess any sight word vocabulary, and they can't answer comprehension questions because they don't understand English.

Then she started in on my students who have been stuck at the same reading level since last year. Before I tell you what she said, let me first make it clear that this has been a crusade of mine since our last round of running records. I made a list of all of my students whose levels didn't change and I posted it up next to my desk. I went through each individual running record, took notes on the exact skills that seem to be holding them back from reaching the next level, and started doing strategy lessons based on those skills. At the time it seemed really daring -- checklists be damned!

So then yesterday my AP was like, "I think you need to look into what's holding them back from reaching the next level. You might need to teach them explicitly those skills. Maybe look at their running records and plan some strategy lessons."

I don't know if I should have been...but I felt a little insulted. First of all, I have yet to be observed this year by my AP, and it's not like we have regular meetings where we plan and discuss these things. So to have her tell me I should be doing something that in actuality I have been working my butt off on, which she would know if we communicated more, was disheartening. In addition to the fact that I felt a little like I was being interrogated in the first place as to why my kids aren't moving up in a way that made it seem like I didn't know them and their abilities well enough to be able to explain myself. As if I would sit there and say, "Hey, what the heck! Sure, let's bump her to C!"

Meanwhile, my colleagues tell me that Teachers College is adamantly against rushing kids through the reading levels, but that my administration has been doing this kind of "Why aren't your kids moving?" interrogation for years.


kiri8 said...

Wow. How frustrating. Hang in there!

(by the way, you've been tagged.)

kiri8 said...

Wow. How frustrating. Hang in there!

(by the way, you've been tagged.)

peace in the classroom said...

I'm so glad that you also feel that the jump from "B" to "C" is one of the biggest jumps of all the reading levels. People don't understand how huge it is to go from one-to-one correspondence where the child could be saying something completely nonsensical to actual decoding, making meaning, and using proper grammar and syntax. Kindergarten teachers (who I love) always send their kids to me at B level at least, but in today's system (um....TC), just plain B is not good enough for the work ahead in first grade. They need to be at least what I call super Bs, kids who are not only following and recognizing pattern, but also saying meaningful words that make sense and correspond at least to the first letter of the words, and most of all making meaning. I do so much work with my B readers on comprehension because I know they can't make it to C without it. If the comprehension and sight words are there with your ELLs and the only issue is vocabulary, give them C books. I find that moving my ELLs up levels before they've "passed" a level, based on the strategies that they are using, and not the actual running records results has not been a detriment at all to them, especially if they are just miscueing on inflectional endings.

miss brave said...

Thank you for this advice! I just met with my ELL B readers today for guided reading at C and I'm considering bumping them to C. The only problem is that they are already obsessed with moving to C and I'm afraid if I do a running record and really feel they're still not ready, they'll be crushed again!

amber said...

I don't blame you for feeling insulted. It's never fun when someone comes into your space, where you know what's going on and have a plan for things, and questions you without trying to fully understand what is happening and your intentions for the order of things. But I suppose that is the way the education world is these days....ugh.

Katherine said...

Wow - your school just seems completely insane. You care deeply about teaching and your students, and I sincerely hope that you are able to find a better position soon. Working in this kind of environment can cause such sadness, and I would hate to see you lose your love of teaching since you have so much to give to your students.