As a reading tutor, I have encountered various ranges of reading levels and abilities. However, recently I was faced with one of the most frustrating experiences. I was tutoring a student who will be entering 3rd grade in the fall. She is one of the most adorable kids I have ever worked with!!! She smiles from ear to ear, is full of energy, and appears to get great pleasure from reading. In conducting my assessments of her reading ability, I had her read books that were of different levels. She did a great job with all of the books, reading with great expression, pace, and self correcting. My conclusion was that she is a great reader, but could work more with incorporating multiple cueing systems when decoding a word. So, why is this situation frustrating?
The child’s teacher, during the recently completed academic year, suggested that she be retained due to a deficiency with reading. WHAT???!!!!?? This did not register with me because I couldn’t see how a child who reads so well could be told that she did not know how to read. I also learned that she was even recommended by her teacher for Special Ed. Services….how could this be??! The questions that I have asked myself over and over again are what did the teacher see that I didn’t? What other factors could be affecting her very distinct performances with me and with her former teacher? Could the classroom environment, instability at home, disinterest in the texts being read in class have played a role in her supposedly poor reading ability? As I prepare for student teaching, this situation has really opened my eyes to the dilemma that teachers face. There is no one observation or assessment that should be the determining factor for labeling students as under-performing. I am not trying to undermine the knowledge of her teacher, who obviously has more experience in the classroom than I do. I am, however, concerned with the effect that a failure to assess the whole circumstance has on the child. What if she had actually been retained but really shouldn’t have been? What effect would that have on her socially/emotionally/academically?? These are some of the questions that are plaguing my mind right now. All I know is that children like this one need to be able to trust that the teacher is advocating for their success and well being at all times. If this is what her teacher was really doing….KUDOS to him/her! However, if not, this shows that there is still more work to be done. This experience has pushed me to critically analyze what I can do to make sure that I am assessing the WHOLE child and keeping in mind the various external and internal forces that may be impeding a student’s success at reading?? How do I make sure I am advocating for students and seeing the best in them at all times?