If you are a teacher or a curriculum administrator you probably spend significant time thinking about what you can do to help your struggling students in your school, for time and time again the school proposed curriculum—Common Core, A Plus, Online programs clearly rarely work for struggling students.
Although the proposed curriculum programs serve as models of what teachers should be teaching and what students should be learning, seasoned teachers know otherwise that struggling students need a different approach to meet the rigor of national Standards and classroom lessons that teachers construct.
Educators’ assessing test scores of struggling students can be bewildering; teachers reviewing dismal scores, having to admit to themselves that they must be “ineffective instructors” because their students fail. Indeed, how could teachers feel worthy if they fail continually in helping struggling students perform respectably on tests? What else could be the cause of student failure? Why must teachers be coerced to socially promote students when students have not mastered any learning objective? Conversely, according to current research, socially promoting students does not prepare students for skills they need in the real world; yet, socially promoting students appears to be the norm in many United States schools. Perhaps part reason is that a school’s Continuing Improvement Plan must reflect student success or at best reflect student improvement, especially for schools to maintain in favor of Federal assistance; moreover, many administrators of schools may be concerned with their school’s reputation: Are schools helpful to students or are schools hurtful to students?
Certainly administrators and teachers know to be creative to try new learning techniques to help their struggling students—or do they know?🤷🏻♀️ Research does not present evidence that curriculum departments have been helpful to the point of knowing what actually goes on in teachers’ classrooms. In fact, research is plentiful that more empirical studies are necessary for conclusive consensus that curriculum departments actually make a difference in school systems. Thus, educators may start by asking questions of the curriculum department: “What have you done for me lately?”
In near past, curriculum directors used to visit classrooms to evaluate teachers, to offer aid if teachers needed it, yet more importantly, curriculum directors were able to discern if teachers were teaching relevant standards to help all students; additionally, curriculum directors used to be able to determine student management problems if they occurred during teacher-evaluation; if necessary, the curriculum director would cite, “professional development for this teacher in classroom management.” Research argues the practice of curriculum directors’ visiting teacher classrooms is a rare commodity in today’s educational systems. Yet, curriculum support indeed would be helpful to teachers because teachers often need ongoing motivational support via teacher evaluation.
Without curriculum support, evaluating learning of struggling students would rarely be assessed, and when principals evaluate teachers, their input is somewhat invaluable unless they themselves have been classroom teachers. On the other hand, a curriculum director would indeed be able to help, for his or her duties are to understand and to share the business of promoting teacher success and to encourage teachers to encourage their students to be successful. Of course, having a concerned curriculum person as immediate support does not excuse teachers for not knowing how to help themselves to help their struggling students.
Every teacher should be competent: Yet, if teachers are not trying to improve instruction, if they are not documenting instructional ideas to satisfy the requirement of differentiating instruction, if teachers are not capable of disciplining students nor of motivating students to learn, then maybe, just maybe the identified teachers are working in the wrong profession. A particular classroom environment is a motley crew of learning styles that must be acknowledged . . . In understanding these problems, the current course of study—Common Core, A Plus, online learning may not be the highway to travel to reach the destination of struggling students.
Thus, in light of these concerns, what can teachers do to improve learning of struggling students? What can curriculum directors and school administrators do to help teachers help struggling students—WITHOUT—socially promoting students? In truth, almost everyday in the classroom may will be trial and error, yet with the help of everyone involved, the tips delineated below may be even more helpful in meeting the needs of struggling students:
To curriculum department:
(1) Use your clout to sway teachers to excellence: Evaluate the performance of teachers, and compliment teachers for their excellence and suggest ways for their improvement if necessary.
(2) Provide teachers with school Standards and Instructional Guides, and insist upon teachers reading the guides.
(3) Present professional development sessions for a teacher to work with other teachers so they may review and highlight importance of instructional guides.
(4) Support school administrators with their needs for professional development in school leadership.
To school administrators:
(1) Make sure teachers understand “who is who” and who is in charge of what.
(2) Allow teachers autonomy if they believe they can serve their students best in this way.
(3) Provide school technology support to help teachers setup computers and trouble shoot technology issues, so that teachers may have access to every teaching tool available for them and their students to use.
(4) Be available to step-inside classrooms unannounced to keep students and teachers on task.
(5) Acknowledge teachers’ good works in ways that they appreciate rather than announce “teacher of the month” without true merit.
(6) Share with teachers their students’ scores of achievement, and provide suggestions for helpfulness if appropriate.
(1) Make sure you are in the right job of teaching.
(2) Know your subject matter.
(3) Monitor all students’ knowledge of learning Standards.
(4) Provide innovative ways for students to learn Standards and to complete their assignments.
(5) Motivate students everyday.
(6) Contact parents every nine-weeks with a success story about their child, and contact parent immediately when you need their help with their child.
(7) Teach Moral Values.
(9) Research “Classroom Management and Student Management” techniques to apply in your classroom.
(10) Figure out a way to handle your own classroom management and discipline issues.
Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D. 2020
Professional Development Consultant
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