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Mainer

Should kids know their levels?

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Just gathering some thoughts. Some of my colleagues believe strongly that kids should know their levels - reading levels, NWEA scores, percentiles, etc., and that knowing their levels will motivate them to improve (with support of course). I heartily disagree. Seeing progress is motivating, yes, but there are other ways to show progress other than cold hard numbers. For my SpEd students (and maybe all students!), knowing that they're at a 2nd grade reading level in 5th grade would not be motivating, it would be crushing. I'd rather say, hey look, in September you could only read 5 of these 2-syllable words, now you can read 30! Hooray! But I wouldn't want to say that these words are actually 3rd grade words and you're a 5th grader. It just feels wrong to me.

What do you think? How honest should we be with kids about their levels? 

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My ds who is severely dyslexic had NO clue how far behind he was.  It would have served no purpose to discourage him by emphasizing that his reading abilities were significantly below kids his age.  I have had SpEd teachers tell me that they have always been taught that his "path" was unattainable.  (He was only reading Frog and Toad books in 2nd grade and with struggle.  He didn't approach on grade level reading until 5th grade.  By 8th grade he was functioning across board at an advanced level. He graduated from college with a 4.0) 

When he was in 6th grade he heard me talking to someone about how much he struggled learning to read.  He asked me later when we were alone if that was true.  That is how clueless he was as to what was going on.

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I think that when a teacher or a person believes something is motivating they may sell it to a child as motivating.  Whether or not it is motivating depends on the impact on the child.  That is the measure.  If a teacher is known to be motivating to most or all students and has some things I don’t agree with, but it’s working, because of whatever relationship has been built, then I think I would not criticize that person who is in fact getting positive results.

But I don’t care for it, and I definitely don’t think this is a method to recommend across the board, it clearly has so much potential to hurt kids’ feelings.  

I really don’t care for it at all.  

 

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As a parent I would definitely be asking other parents about the reputation of these teachers.  I would not trust the teacher that it was a good method.  Then I would see what I heard.  

 

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No, I don't like that at all. I know too many teens who suffer crippling anxiety from having been made to worry about numbers all the time, related to school. They're sold the concept that if they don't get these grades and make these scores, they won't get into college, and they won't have a good job. I don't think children can really understand concepts like averages, and how it's OK not to be "best," and how nobody else can tell you that your hardest work is not living up to your potential (as defined by scores), and how you might not know who you are or what you like until you're older...we have seen the outcome in the first generation of the overly tested students. I would remove a child from the influence of a teacher who deliberately teaches him to worry about the numbers on somebody else's arbitrary measuring scale for his life.

Edited by Lang Syne Boardie
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No.

however for my son a graph visually showing improvement was helpful 

 

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*Sorry, but a really not nice answer follows.*

I think there's a lot of institutionalized abuse and making excuses for the therapist's lack of skill and lack of progress.

When THEY are more skillful and THEY are able to help the kid make significant progress instead of BLAMING the kid, then we can have that discussion of whether data is developmentally appropriate to some kids and motivating.

So no, I fire SLPs who do that to my kid and I find it disgusting and abusive when I see therapists berating children in front of their parents for lack of progress. If the dc isn't progressing, it's probably the clinician's fault and the clinician's lack of skill. They need to shut up and get better at what they're supposed to be doing instead of blaming kids with disabilities and saying they just don't try hard enough.

Edited by PeterPan

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2 hours ago, Mainer said:

I'd rather say, hey look, in September you could only read 5 of these 2-syllable words, now you can read 30! Hooray!

Exactly.

Besides, they really must think the kids are idiots if they think the kids don't already know it's hard and that they compare poorly to their peers. 

I don't know, I just have to walk away. What kind of psychology training did these people have??? Oh yes, beatings are motiving. Being told you suck is motivating. Being told how much you're still failing is motivating.

I think they need to channel a little Jesus and think about how they'd want to be treated. But then remember they've had it constantly hard for like the last 10+ years, sorta like swimming with lead boots on, and then see if they want to be told their stats on how much they're drowning.

Edited by PeterPan

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My big goal when I work with ds is to redefine normal and to focus on progress relative to himself. THAT is healthy. 

We can have high expectations but a realistic sense of normal and healthy and let the dc be happy in that world, instead of constantly fretting over defective, defective. My goodness.

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No one has ever suggested doing it with my kids, and I do think it is bizarre.

There are things I haven’t liked when I have really liked the person, though, but I guess not really comparable to this.  

I can’t say because I haven’t been in this situation, but I think I would protest it (from speaking to the teacher up to possibly notifying the principal in writing).  I have complained in writing two times ever, and I would only do it if the teacher seemed really unreceptive to me or like there was more than just one thing.  I wouldn’t complain if it didn’t specifically seem to harm my child and otherwise I was happy with the teacher.  I would wonder if there would be other things I didn’t like when there is something like this, though.  

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Ugh, no...Current level with an early elementary student who is diagnosed dyslexic is of no importance when they are receiving  systematic and explicit multi sensory reading instruction with a committed teacher.  They catch up.  I accommodated with audIo books and scribed/taught typing until son's "eye reading" caught up and exceeded his grade level. Son could always comprehend when he heard story and information.  

Edited by Heathermomster
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On 6/6/2019 at 2:14 PM, PeterPan said:

*Sorry, but a really not nice answer follows.*

I think there's a lot of institutionalized abuse and making excuses for the therapist's lack of skill and lack of progress.

When THEY are more skillful and THEY are able to help the kid make significant progress instead of BLAMING the kid, then we can have that discussion of whether data is developmentally appropriate to some kids and motivating.

So no, I fire SLPs who do that to my kid and I find it disgusting and abusive when I see therapists berating children in front of their parents for lack of progress. If the dc isn't progressing, it's probably the clinician's fault and the clinician's lack of skill. They need to shut up and get better at what they're supposed to be doing instead of blaming kids with disabilities and saying they just don't try hard enough.

We got the "He could do it if he wants to" dance for a long time with my kiddo who has ASD and ADHD, and then we found out his language issues are quite severe, so I agree with the above. I am glad to hop on my soapbox as well. 

Now that my son is getting appropriate therapy (after LOTS of trial and error), it's very clear that he's not going to catch up. It's also clear that if he'd had this kind of help five years ago, he would have probably caught up. His language development largely stalled for 7 or 8 years because no one had any idea that he had a language problem (he did make progress in areas like grammar, vocabulary development, but writing basically didn't work at all, and it became clear his reading comprehension was about retaining facts but not the main ideas of things). He looked like he was fine or advanced and that he just would not do the work. We're talking about a kid whose IQ scores meet the cutoff to apply to Davidson, and the people who said it's that he doesn't want to are the same people that were shocked at his willingness to work for two hours at a time with a tutor, 2x per week. It's outrageous--outrageous that this contradiction (especially with the IQ evidence) didn't prompt some serious concern; outrageous that he got so little out of so much time and effort on his part. Even the person who figured out that he had language issues (which were later confirmed with additional testing) could not design or support effective intervention for him and subsequently blamed him, and it turns out she just wasn't breaking it down far enough. The next specialist turned up more issues, but hit more potholes than she filled (but she did lay some solid groundwork that helped later). The latest specialist finally kind of found a sweet spot, but she's had to work hard to make it work.

Knowing his level doesn't help him--the more behind he feels, the less motivating it is. He's had to find the silver lining ("Well at least I don't have to write long papers every week"). The work he puts into his language tasks is heartbreaking. I am so proud of him for keeping at it. He's is progressing now with good intervention, but so much time and effort was utterly wasted for so long. 

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In my teacher training, I was assigned a pull-out reading session with a  group of rough middle-school hoodlums; I handed them each a book (The Contender), and started reading it to them (out loud), and told them to jump in by reading a paragraph now and then to "help" me. Their reading was slow, laborious, painful (no diagnosed learning disabilities, just way behind in reading). They preferred me to read to them, and those apathetic kids were actually getting interested in the story, and making a good effort to read, and achieving success (!) when one of them realized I had given them a book several "levels" ahead of their classification. 

I'll never forget that day as every. single. one. of them slammed the books shut and were DONE. All that effort and progress, GONE! I was so angry for those boys. 

I'm sure there are situations where knowing one's level can be helpful, but - it can also be so very damaging. 

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My school district is full inclusion and uses Accelerated Reader.  Most dc can figure out their reading level the first week of Kindy...not precisely, but enough that its discouraging to nonreaders because full inclusion has put fluent readers in the same whole class learning situation as children who dont know a letter. What helps is the teacher comparing reading to other skills...some can skip, some can't for ex. and expressing confidence that all will learn more.  The level itself is not motivational, the skill check off list and the progress made towards completing a level is.  Lots of anger comes from being tested over skills that were not taught, and from not being offered the opportunity to learn or practice a new-to-the-learner skill.

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Thanks guys, I had a feeling we'd likely agree on this one. At a meeting last week, a teacher described a kid (likely ADHD) as "unmotivated." I was really angry. I don't think any 9 year old is really THAT "unmotivated" about schoolwork unless there is something going on. I mean, I was not thrilled about school as a kid, but I did the bare minimum to keep teachers off my back! These kids aren't able to do the bare minimum... they may look unmotivated, but you can bet that they'd MUCH rather be able to quickly do the work so the teacher would stop nagging them.

I also got the opportunity to clear up some misconceptions about ADHD, which was fun.

 

 

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10 hours ago, kbutton said:

but so much time and effort was utterly wasted for so long. 

I know. My favorite is "I'm a nice therapist so my therapy should be good." People really confuse effectiveness with being a nice person. 

8 minutes ago, Mainer said:

At a meeting last week, a teacher described a kid (likely ADHD) as "unmotivated."

So they haven't done ANY reading on ADHD *at all* like literally at all. That is so classic, like the very first, out of the box thing people say. In fact, if someone comes on the boards and says they have some twerp who isn't motivated (ie. they're frustrated but it's the kid's fault), we automatically say ADHD and dig and there it is. So then the person has no clue.

We have such high expectations, but these are very pigeonholed fields. IS, SLPs, OTs, these people are expected to work with such a BROAD RANGE of issues when their programs are not preparing them. 

So yeah, that's just classic. Is Levine with the book about the Lazy Child? I forget.

Edited by PeterPan

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I don’t like the idea that the kid just isn’t motivated enough to do better and pointing out how low they are will make someone more motivated to learn. motivation is not the problem- or it isn’t until they give up because they can’t try hard enough to please the adults.

On the other hand, I don’t necessarily see a reason to hide such information from an older child. It isn’t like they don’t know they they have trouble with something, but I would present the information in a very matter of fact way. Your score was this, now it is this. 

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I have mixed feelings. I think it depends upon how the information is presented, and why, and what the goals are. DS15 is undergoing some psych testing right now, and he is invited to attend the results meeting (he does not want to, and probably won't, but he is welcome by the psych). The special ed coordinator at his public school also has students who are age 14 and up attend at least a portion of their IEP meetings, with the idea that they are working up to staying for the whole meeting and being fully involved in understanding and advocating for themselves. There is not a way to build up to and support the student while also hiding data from them.

Some students also need to understand why they are needing extra help, so that they will be willing participants in intervention. They don't always need to know the data, though.

DS15 is not ready to look at and understand the whole picture of his disabilities and what he needs, but he has to work towards that, because as an adult, he will be making his own decisions about what kind of accommodations and help is necessary. His younger sister, DD13 with dyslexia, is a different personality, and she would be fine with knowing all information about herself at this point, and would not have to work up to it.

So I think there are different answers to the question, based on the age of the student and on each student's personality and needs. I don't think that a single way of handling the data is the best approach for all. Especially when students are younger, knowing their level may only make them feel demoralized. But older students who are working toward self-advocating need to have a fuller understanding of themselves.

 

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2 hours ago, Storygirl said:

Some students also need to understand why they are needing extra help, so that they will be willing participants in intervention. They don't always need to know the data, though.

That is a good way to put it.

We have selectively shared data because the data in some parts is SO BAD, but the same child is not unaware of that either. Just not fully aware--we talk about what our goal is, and we talk about what we have to do to get school/therapy done. He already sees that he's not doing what friends are doing, and he pretty much knows why (language issues). Knowing a number or level for that is not necessary when he can tell by the kind of work he's having to do in certain areas. 

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9 hours ago, Storygirl said:

The special ed coordinator at his public school also has students who are age 14 and up attend at least a portion of their IEP meetings, with the idea that they are working up to staying for the whole meeting and being fully involved in understanding and advocating for themselves. There is not a way to build up to and support the student while also hiding data from them.

I agree with this. Depending on the student, staying for part or all of the meeting can be very empowering. The amount of data shared just needs to be customized to the student. I disagree with my colleagues who think that kids need ALL the info at once. 

On the other hand, kids are certainly aware that they are not able to do what their classmates are doing. I just don't think they have a full awareness of how big the gap is, which is fine with me! One of my students recently said something about reading at a 2nd grade level in 4th grade (true), and I don't know how he found that out. I certainly never told him. Ever since then, he's been much more resistant to our interventions, so quick to say "I can't read, I can't spell," when before he was so proud to be able to rattle off syllabication rules, all the different ways to make long a, etc.  Going from a K reading level to 2nd in a year is a huge accomplishment, yet he feels like a failure. It really breaks my heart... AND we get a lot less done now because I have to take time convincing him to do every single thing rather than just getting on with it. The less we get done, the more he feels behind, and the cycle continues.

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I think the flipside is that school workers have kids who in high school even still don't know their disabilities, aren't self-advocating, aren't realistic. When I went in with my dd for evals, that was one of the things they asked, does she know her diagnoses. They said it was surprisingly common for kids not to know.

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My local dyslexia school used to have their new students complete a brain study/poster board type project so that they could understand plasticity and how the brain works.  Students presented the info to their parents.  I learned this while interviewing the school for possible placement.  Anyhoo...

Knowledge of brain plasticity, synaptic pruning, and the brain’s ability to form new neural networks with multi-sensory teaching is helpful information, and I used that knowledge to assure DS constantly that he could and would learn.  

My son was not always motivated, but then most children lack motivation at one time or another.  Lack of motivation is perfectly normal.  I used rewards for efforts and told DS on a regular basis that dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia all SUCK.  Yes, I used that word.  I affirmed that learning for DS was difficult....I just don’t see the point in tip toeing around that fact, and I emphasized that irregardless of how either of us felt, work would need to be done to overcome his issues.  Remediation for reading ended by 7th grade.  Honestly, DS considers dyslexia to be a non-issue.  We never discuss it except for when he spells in front of peers on a white board.  He’s funny and upfront about poor spelling.

My DS has always known his SLDs and only learned of the specific numbers about 13 months ago when he was tested for uni accommodations.  That was also the first time he sat with a tester to review scores.  He advocates for himself well and has never complained once about not knowing his numbers. DS is not motivated by numbers at all except for keeping his gpa high enough to not lose scholarship. 

Overall, I think using numbers as a motivation tool is a very bad idea.  If students are provided their numbers, they need to understand brain plasticity and be affirmed when learning gets especially hard.  

Edited by Heathermomster
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On 6/8/2019 at 7:25 AM, Lucy the Valiant said:

In my teacher training, I was assigned a pull-out reading session with a  group of rough middle-school hoodlums; I handed them each a book (The Contender), and started reading it to them (out loud), and told them to jump in by reading a paragraph now and then to "help" me. Their reading was slow, laborious, painful (no diagnosed learning disabilities, just way behind in reading). They preferred me to read to them, and those apathetic kids were actually getting interested in the story, and making a good effort to read, and achieving success (!) when one of them realized I had given them a book several "levels" ahead of their classification. 

I'll never forget that day as every. single. one. of them slammed the books shut and were DONE. All that effort and progress, GONE! I was so angry for those boys. 

I'm sure there are situations where knowing one's level can be helpful, but - it can also be so very damaging. 

I don't know why you'd be angry for the boys.  What was the goal?  This is a perfect example of why schools are failing if during teacher training you were working on read alouds (and I'm assuming the goal was fluency) with a group of older dyslexics/non-readers.  It is very unpleasant for unremediated non-readers to read aloud in a group.  Were you trained using Slingerland? Did these students have access to audio books and devices while in the classroom?  These boys would have been better served by working one on one with an OG trained reading specialist and having free access to audio books. 

 

Edited by Heathermomster
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She said angry “for” the boys, not “at” the boys.  

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5 hours ago, Heathermomster said:

I don't know why you'd be angry for the boys.  What was the goal?  This is a perfect example of why schools are failing if during teacher training you were working on read alouds (and I'm assuming the goal was fluency) with a group of older dyslexics/non-readers.  It is very unpleasant for unremediated non-readers to read aloud in a group.  Were you trained using Slingerland? Did these students have access to audio books and devices while in the classroom?  These boys would have been better served by working one on one with an OG trained reading specialist and having free access to audio books. 

 

 

Yes, I was angry FOR the boys that their school was failing them, badly (by allowing them to think that they could not read books above a certain level). The goal was to improve fluency. Though there may have been (and probably were) undiagnosed learning disabilities in the group, the boys WERE able to read when encouraged (and given PRIVACY and TIME), and they were gaining fluency (helped by my reading aloud to them in between their turns). The pull-out situation was by choice ("which reading group would like to go in the back with the student teacher?"), and the boys were starting to really get into the story. We successfully read nearly half the book using this method. (I would NOT attempt this method with unremediated non-readers.) Their fluency was improving measurably until the day they discovered I had given them a book "too hard" for them to read (it was NOT too hard, as evidenced by their success).   

The "should kids know their level" question doesn't have one right answer, obviously; every single kid and every single situation is different. I shared my anecdote to offer one potential danger in one situation I was familiar with. I think the question should be handled carefully, for EVERY kid (on both ends of the "achievement" spectrum). 

 

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On 6/10/2019 at 4:23 PM, Lucy the Valiant said:

Yes, I was angry FOR the boys that their school was failing them, badly (by allowing them to think that they could not read books above a certain level).

This makes me sad for the boys, too. There obviously wasn't much of a growth mindset at that school!

I agree with you that each student needs to be handled differently. 

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On 6/9/2019 at 11:47 PM, Heathermomster said:

Overall, I think using numbers as a motivation tool is a very bad idea.  If students are provided their numbers, they need to understand brain plasticity and be affirmed when learning gets especially hard.  

Definitely!! Well said. 

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On 6/9/2019 at 6:26 PM, PeterPan said:

I think the flipside is that school workers have kids who in high school even still don't know their disabilities, aren't self-advocating, aren't realistic.

True, that's no good. My student that I think a lot about DOES know he has dyslexia, and it's been a relief to him and a classmate. They both refer to it often - but one thinks he can overcome it and learn, and the other thinks it means he'll never learn 😞 

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Really sharp article, actually lesson plans, from Michelle Garcia Winner on using Social Thinking to get them to think about their areas of strength and weakness. Wouldn't be data-driven, but it is at least whole. https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=teaching-students-about-learning-strengths-weaknesses&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=fb_ar_strength_check_andx_girl&utm_campaign=article_fb_Teaching_Students_about_Their_Learning_Strengths_and_Weaknesses&fbclid=IwAR0xxtz5FQurmCDKUMXxeQuHZn7Rz2Tt2bWda-MWHQRRkIBNy5dRmE1G-C0 You could adapt for data or just say data doesn't hit the point anyway. How is data justly shared across a population? In college they used to post all the grades with unique identifiers, not names. I don't know.

Anyways, the lessons are interesting. My ds has no sense of problems. Like it's the flipside of not sharing data, lol. To him everyone else is the problem, he shouldn't have a hard time, etc. So maybe her article will be great for us.

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My kids know selective bits of their testing, but I think I was the right person to disclose (or not disclose) that to them.

My NT, non-LD dd has been struggling in math, and was very aware that she wasn’t performing well compared to her age peers. We undertook some massive remediation efforts this year, and I was able to show her that she is now mostly on level. This did help motivate her to continue working with me. The data showed improvement relative to effort expended.

My Ds is 2E. He is 2+ standards out on either side—for him. He has seen everything because he wanted to (7th grade). It validated that he does have to work really hard, much harder than his age peers, in his areas of weakness. He also better understands why some things come so easily. He has a huge amount of self-awareness, though.

My other Ds was beating himself up for getting a 34 on his ACT math test when he had been getting perfect math practice tests at home. I plan on burning his testing files at some point in the future. Showing him data only drives the perfectionism in his 2E-ness or “justifies” some of his behavior choices. It may seem a bit odd that it is my highest performing and oldest kid who needs shielding from his data, but it’s the reality of the personality mix in our home right now.

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Before high school, I can't imagine how a child would benefit from being told their level in comparison to their peers, either using percentiles, grade levels, etc. 

A progress tracking system (like Fountas and Pinnell's reading levels) would be a great solution, except that kids in school know their classmates' levels and if they are "behind" the other kids. We had more than a few tears this year about reading, which never happened when my son was homeschooled and blissfully unaware that he was "behind". 

I do think children should be told when they have learning disabilities and other learning needs, but I don't think that needs to include comparisons to others until much later on. My oldest son had a psychoeducational evaluation this year, which was a really positive experience for him largely because the graduate student clinician who tested him spent more than an hour going through the results with us, speaking directly to Ds17 to make sure he fully understood and was feeling good about all the results. She spent lots of time on his strengths, then went through each area of weakness and talked about how he would handle them. She included percentile scores in her explanation, but didn't dwell on them and instead focused on what he, we, and his teachers can do to help him. 

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