Monday, October 08, 2001

In need of aide?

My daughter brought home her first big packet of tests from fourth grade last week. Her teacher sends them home on Thursdays, and through a conspiracy of no-school Thursdays last month, we wound up with about three weeks of work at once.

The good news is that most of the grades were fine. Spelling tests were all As, quizzes in math and science and social studies were Bs. So most of the day, she's holding her own.

The bad news is that she failed both of the reading comprehension tests with big, fat Fs.

This is bad news for a couple of reasons.

For one, she's supposed to have an instructional aide in her mainstream classroom for reading. The special-ed folks were sure she'd struggle without it. They feel strongly about the importance of self-esteem, and not waiting for a child to fail before giving help. They feel strongly about this, but not strongly enough to actually get somebody hired in time for the start of the school year. More than a month in, now, I'm still having trouble getting my phone calls returned when I call just to ask about the status of this phantom aide -- will we have her next week? Next month? Next year? While we wait, she piles up Fs.

It's also bad news because, truth be told, I never wanted her to have the aide in the first place. It was a compromise to avoid long hours in resource room. I was humoring the child study team, thinking: But she can do this without help. Why don't we let her try first? And here, now, the absence of the aide gives us the perfect chance to do that. I was all ready to cancel that phantom aide request and insist that, despite all their best instincts, we do wait and see if this student is going to fail before we assume that she is.

But before I can even draw that line in the sand, she's already failing. Just can't wait.

Now, my one hope here is that she's not failing alone. Oh, happy day, if the whole class is doing lousy! How fervently I wish failure on her peers. The reading series is a new one for the kids, the teachers, the district. The tests are wildly different than they have been in years past. No one is quite sure yet what to do with them. So maybe this is the fallout period, and there are many Fs, and my girl's mean no more than the next kid's. I'm waiting to get confirmation on that from the teacher, but she's not returning my notes.

I don't know about reading, but I'm going to have to be giving some folks Fs on communication.

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