Struggling students are referred to the Guidance Team. We identify the most significant barrier to student success. We develop a plan to address the barrier. We choose metrics to track the effectiveness of our plan. We document our interventions and meet regularly to track progress.
A teacher may bring a student to the team who’s reading below grade level. We review the student’s reading data. Perhaps we find evidence they need phonics support. We align our school’s resources- this student will meet with our reading specialist for an 8 week phonics intervention. This may lead to improved fluency and the student can then carry the meaning while reading. As a result, their reading comprehension improves. I’ve seen this happen. It demonstrates some of the best work a school can do.
This week’s meeting involved two students. The first student, a fifth grader, is performing below grade level academically. He’s shown continual improvement but has not kept pace with his classmates. He’s been absent or tardy 93 out of 180 school days. He comes without breakfast. By 10am “the wheels fall off.” He loses his stamina doesn’t complete class activities.
We’ve learned that he wakes his 8 year old sister and gets her ready for school. The parent admitted to his teacher, “She really slows him down.” They end up fighting and arguing. They feed themselves (or forget to) in the morning. Our attempts at working with the family have not yet been helpful in remedying this.
The second student brought to Guidance Team was a former student of mine. We’ve seen the same issue for the past two years. He’s not getting enough sleep. I’ve seen him fall asleep while sitting upright in his chair. At his desk he’s slept through recess and transitions to art or music.
He goes home to an empty house and waits up late until his parents get home from work. He’s scared to go to bed alone. He’s scared of the dark. Last year his teacher checked in with him daily about his bedtime. She bought him a night light. When he arrived to school early she let him nap on the pillows in the class’ reading center. To help him fight off slumber she provided a special table where he could stand and complete his work. She documented her communications with parents but the trend continued.
The students’ academic gaps can be overcome. They’ve both shown progress in previous interventions. But if a student is not in school, is hungry, or tired the every day hurdles students clear become taller… sometimes too tall.
The Guidance Team will continue to work with the families and we’ll continue the current interventions these students receive. But our best chance at serving these students is to help them develop the skills to be school ready.
We’ll help an 11 year-old make a checklist for helping an 8 year-old get ready in the morning. We’ll help him practice asking politely. We’ll check with them daily to see how its going- we can give them positive reinforcement for arriving on time. We’ll keep extra breakfast available for them if they arrive too late. And we’ll give a 10 year-old a place to nap before school. We’ll encourage him to nap when he gets home from school and to set a goal to be in bed (if not asleep) when his parents get home.
That’s our best chance for these kids. We hope it is enough. We’ll see after this "intervention." The Guidance Team follow up meeting is already on the calendar.