I am in my 14th year of teaching and I have seen a lot of things come and go. This school year has been different for me because I have been doing a lot of reflecting on how I teach different concepts. During this process I have come to several conclusions but I will only share one of them.
The first conclusion that I came to is implementing the school districts instructional strategies with fidelity will almost always yield failure! Our school district implemented Guided Reading this school year and this was suppose to be the “savior” for teaching students how to read. I am not opposed to Guided Reading because it does have some very good components, however it does lack in other areas. For example, since this was our first year with Guided Reading certain schools were assigned Scholastic consultants to work with them. While the consultant gave me some good resources to use she also pushed this cookie cutter structure that Guided Reading suggested. I did my best to follow the structure but when I looked at my students’ monthly progress monitoring in iStation the numbers were stagnate. Before she left I had made up my mind that after she left I was going to change some things and use what I know has worked in the past with teaching students to read.
When she left I stopped following Jan Richardson and started really analyzing my students’ iStation data. I noticed that most of my struggling readers had low scores in phonemic awareness. So, I decided to implement a sound check of the long and short vowel sounds and the building words lessons that the consultant had given me. I also changed my read alouds to nonfiction text because in elementary there is supposed to be a 50/50 ratio of fiction to nonfiction text. Honestly my students had not had a formal introduction to nonfiction text. I implemented these changes in March and I could not be more pleased with the April results. I began to progress monitor my students for the month of April and my lowest ESL student had grown from K.8 to 1.2 in 1 month! When I looked at the progress monitoring for all of my struggling readers they had made gains in many of their stagnate areas.
I’m not opposed to hiring consultants to help with instructional strategies but what frustrates me is when these consultants come in and try to teach something that does not work for all the students. After they have made their money you’re stuck with answering questions about why the students have not progressed. The school district that I work for is always saying “data driven” but how can a teacher use data to make instructional decisions when the consultants that they hire did not once suggest that I look at my students’ data. Teaching is NOT a cooking cutting process because all of our students were not created the same.