The principal of my school recently asked me what I thought we could do to help some of our low level students succeed. At the moment, I couldn't think of an answer, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to come up with an answer.
I stumbled across something that I know will work, something I should have thought of originally, something that the schools will never go for. It is one-to-one work. My inclusion boy is fantastic verbally, but when it comes to getting his answers down on paper, he falls apart. I tried letting him take his test in the resource room, with a para or a teacher reading to him (as his IEP says) but this did not help. I wanted them to "babysit" him, make sure he drew diagrams and make sure he said out loud the meaning of the words I knew he knew. This, I hoped, would help. Unfortunately, his tests did not come back that much better and when I inquired as to the type of help he was being given, I found it was not much help at all. Upon questioning this boy, I found out his lunch period and mine coincided. I asked him to find me after he ate so we could go over the exam together before I marked it.
This student is a great kid and did exactly as I asked him to do. He ate quickly and joined me in my "office" (floor outside the cafeteria) where we went over the exam. Just by making him read the questions to me, he was able to correct 6 errors, 24 points of the exam. I did not help him or lead him, I just made sure he read the questions carefully and used the words he knew the meaning of.
This child can and will succeed because I happen to be available to help him when he is available to get the help. So many others aren't as lucky. So many of my students have benefitted when I paired them up with AP calculus students for that one-to-one help.
I don't think this is the answer the principal was looking for. There is no money in the budget to pay for one-to-one instruction and even if every teacher was willing to work with one student every day like this, there would still be too many left on their own. This sort of help is not cost effective and could never work in the business environment schools have been turned into. In the business world people would not work for free and volunteer tutoring would be eliminated. It is not cost effective to pay one-to-one teachers. We are lucky the city is sticking to thirty four-to-one teacher plans.
There are students that won't succeed no matter how much individual help they are given but there are others that can be successful this way. Some have learning disabilities and some have emotional disabilities but this private help could possibly be the thing that puts them over.