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Radical change needed in elementary ed

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Date published: 2/5/2013

Radical change needed in elementary ed

I recently attended a Spotsylvania County School Board meeting and heard an excellent presentation about efforts to help middle-school students who needed additional help to become proficient readers. While I applaud these efforts, I know there is a better way to help our children well before they reach middle school.

I served in the U.S. Army for 24 years. Upon retiring, I became an elementary school teacher and taught grades two, three, and four. I became an assistant principal and an elementary school principal before retiring again. Since then, I have volunteered in classrooms in Spotsylvania County.

We need to change our focus in elementary education. Specifically, reading and mathematics instruction should be the entire emphasis for kindergarten, first, and second grades. Teachers in these grades should be held accountable only for reading and mathematics learning objectives. The goal should be for every child to be at or above grade level in reading and mathematics by the first day of third grade year.

I have yet to talk to an early-childhood teacher who doesn't endorse this concept.

Learning in social studies, science, and any other subject area in these initial grades can and should continue, but only in the process of teaching students reading and mathematics concepts.

There are boundless instructional resources available to accomplish this. The result of adopting this focus will yield tremendous financial savings for school divisions, but most important, our students will be prepared to meet all learning objectives beyond second grade.

There are those who will object to this idea. But we must stop shortchanging our children by continuing to use a learning program that does not ensure success for every child.

Two final points to ponder: For a student who is not a proficient reader, every test becomes a reading test regardless of subject. If a student is a below-grade-level reader by the end of the fifth grade, data indicate they will most likely never be a proficient reader.

These points should be reasons enough to change an instructional program that is obviously failing so many of our students.

Gary Shaw