It is the hope of all parents that their child is capable of keeping up with their peers academically. Delays in learning to read and write are the most common reasons given for retaining children. Children who do not experience early success in school, often experience little to no success throughout their academic years. The longer children experience failure, the greater the risk of them becoming withdrawn, disruptive and eventually dropping out of school all together.
Children who are not exposed to reading, writing, story telling and pencil and paper activities before entering school are often the ones who will be placed early in special education classes. Sadly, they will remain in these class until they exit school, often with a diploma that simply says they attended school. These are the children we need to reach in regular education, before they are placed in special education. These are the at-risk kids. They will continue to struggle with their academics throughout their schooling life if something isn't done before hand.
I have volunteered and worked in many different schools throughout this country. Both before becoming a Special Educator and since. I have seen the tragedy of these at-risk kids. There have been moments when some teachers have tried to help and other teachers have ignored the child because of behavior or simply not understanding how to help.
Over the years, there have been many programs implemented by both local and federal government funding. Some of these programs have worked extremely well, but they have no follow up. Most of them only reach a small percentage of these at-risk kids. We need more. We need schools that educate children, all children.
In today's world, our children need to come out of school with knowledge, skills, social awareness, and self-esteem. They need to feel confident about their future. Many jobs today require that you have more then a high school diploma. Information, management and technology (computers) jobs dominate the working world. There are fewer and fewer unskilled labor, factory, and craft jobs in the United States. Children need to be prepared to leave high school and either go to a technical school, junior college, university, or the military to be better prepared for the job market.
Our elementary schools need to change the way they work with at-risk kids. All children leaving elementary school should be well prepared for middle school and beyond. We need to rethink the way we plan the school day, the curriculum used, and how the monies and resources are allocated. Teachers and principals of elementary schools need to form a bond on how they are better prepared to deal with the issues of all the children they teach. At-risk kids should always be a part of the regular classroom, not self-contained. Small class groups, peer teaching, co-teaching, parent participation, a strong volunteer staff and lots of time for reading are just some of the ways we can make a difference.
Learning to read and write are essential to success in our world. Everything we do requires us to read, write and often do some type of calculations. How many people know how to write a resume, or a letter seeking a job? How many people can not read the newspaper? What about applications for a credit card, a bank account, a mortgage? When you go to the hospital you often have to sign a form stating your responsibility, can you read it? I can not tell you how many middle and high school students I have worked with (that were not special needs), who don't have a clue on how to do a check book, fill out an application, or even read instructions on almost anything. Whether they weren't paying attention when these subjects were taught, I don't know. I do know that they are missing parts of the educational process.
No Child Left Behind is promising to change the way we educate, but, I feel that they will still be missing the at-risk kids. Parents, teachers, and business people need to be more involved in what is happening in our schools. Our children are our biggest resource, let's all pitch in and make sure that they are successful.