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A Flawed System

Even though I had a good day, I’m feeling the need to vent a bit, so please bear with me.

I would really love to know who came up with an educational system that allows a child to make it to the 9th grade while only being able to read at a second grade level.

I’m not kidding.

I am an intensive reading teacher.

I have students who, for various reasons, cannot comprehend text well.

Their struggles have to do with learning disabilities, lack of a strong vocabulary, little practice in higher order thinking, and difficult home lives that don’t lend themselves to meaningful conversations, which has been proven to affect reading ability.

With that said, my current students are fortunate in that their reading levels are higher than the one described above.  However, I do know of students who fall into this category, so the issue hits close to home.

I am frustrated.


Because instead of doing what’s right for these students, which is to place them in special classes with students their own age and of similar reading ability, these struggling students are placed in mainstream classes.

Adding to the embarrassment of being unable to perform at the same level as their peers, they are described as “lazy” by some teachers.

Perhaps they aren’t lazy.

Perhaps they cannot read the instructions of assignments.

Perhaps the assignments are too overwhelming and need to be broken down into smaller chunks.

Perhaps they need accompanying pictures to help them understand the assignment parameters.

Perhaps these students need to be taught by teachers who are specially trained to balance their social ages with their academic abilities.

While I can sort of understand why students are promoted socially, it doesn’t, in reality, make sense as far as the students’ long-term success goes.

If students are constantly promoted, they’ll eventually graduate…without the ability to read job applications or solve problems by thinking critically.

Who loses out?

Ultimately, and most importantly, it’s the students in need of specialized teaching.

What’s the answer?

I don’t know.

I’m still new at this teaching thing and don’t envision ever transitioning into a position that puts me in charge of making these kinds of decisions.

What I do know is that it is teachers such as myself who are called upon to provide a meaningful education to such struggling students…students who are seven or eight years behind their peers.

It is teachers like myself who are left feeling very inadequate and unsure what interventions to use to best assist these students.

It is teachers like myself who carry guilt with them because they don’t feel that they are adequately serving the needs of ALL of their students.  While teachers are taught to differentiate instruction according to the learning abilities, styles, and personalities of their students, when there is a seven or eight year difference in skills…well…that is a very overwhelming task!

It’s not surprising that the system is flawed.

Most government systems are.


Because one size doesn’t fit all.

Because saving money is more important than doing what needs to be done to ensure that schools produce young adults who can confidently contribute to society.

Because it’s easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk.

Because it’s easier to sit in an office, far removed from a classroom, and make decisions about students who exist solely on paper.

Because it’s easier to make decisions from afar without really seeing the effect they have on those in the classroom.

THAT takes real work…real sacrifice…and I don’t know if the powers-that-be who make such decisions are willing to get down and dirty to do what it will take to fix a flawed system.

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