In my juvenile corrections class, we often get students who have pretty low IQs. No surprise that these students are mostly failing in school. Probably no matter what I would do with them in class–that is, what I would do to help them pass standardized tests–would make any difference.
Yet these students are have great success in writing, reading and art.
Why would this be so? It’s because we work for mastery, we start where the students actually are, and I encourage excellence, no matter how long it takes. (It’s always a joke that “inside,” we have nothing but time, but it’s actually true in any classroom. If we want excellence, we need to take the time. I note that the requirements of the Common Core totally reinforce that. One of our teachers, attending a Common Core training, brought along a pacing guide that is required in our district, and the CC instructor practically recoiled).
“No,” she said. “This is antithetical to the process. We stay with it till we get mastery. If some students reach basic mastery right away, we set up experiences for deeper mastery.”
That’s good pedagogy. So when a repeat offender with an IQ of 86 appears in my classroom over time, and we keep writing together, and he produces, after all this time, a really stunning story (about hunting, which is NOT my preference for subject matter, believe me), it’s time for celebration.
Will his test scores improve? Almost certainly not. But he can write–now, and hopefully for a long time–since it took quite a long time to get here.
He’s a big kid, fair hair, ruddy face; you could say chunky. And there he stands in front the of the class, after reading aloud, flushing with joy at the spontaneous applause from his fellows.