No parent wants his or her child to be left behind by the school system. But the fact remains that some children, especially boys of the active ‘kinesthetic’ type, are still more likely to fail to learn the core subjects well enough in grade school to have a solid foundation for high school studies. Instead, many of them do learn early that they make good class clowns and can provide hours of entertainment for the other students during recess, but that reading, writing, and arithmetic are not “their thing.” That which is not enjoyed is not rehearsed, and that which is not rehearsed cannot be enjoyed, so the cycle goes on and students “fall through the cracks.”
In the United States, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 mandates standardized testing for all federally-funded schools. As a condition of continued funding, each school is required to show continuous improvement in test scores year-over-year. Various corrective measures kick in if scores do not improve. Standardized tests and the follow-up processes based on the scores are useful tools for improving accountability and quality. (Ontario also has standardized tests in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10.) In spite of the optimistic name of the American legislation though, this type of 30,000-ft approach cannot prevent your child or mine from falling through the cracks.
Solving this problem requires close engagement with the student. It takes a teacher or a parent who is willing to invest time with that student to coach him through. The student often needs to be separated from his ‘audience’ of 25-30 peers and instead be taught one-on-one. Sometimes it also takes a very unorthodox approach. I read of one home-schooling parent whose son did his best reading while hanging sideways off the sofa. Most school systems will rarely find the time to engage with every child – they are, after all, focused on giving the average student an average education. But parents working in a collaborative environment with their own children will definitely be able to meet the needs of each student much better than any institution can.