Recently my AP came to see me. I was wary, because I thought she was coming to switch around my reading groups, but it wasn’t that. Instead, it was worse: She came to ask me why some of my kids’ reading levels didn’t go up.
She was especially interested in my students who are still reading at level B, who are primarily non-English speakers. She kept asking if I was sure they weren’t ready for C, as if I wasn’t keeping track of their abilities and they had magically developed a robust sight word vocabulary and decoding skills overnight. She also made it seem like since they do have one-to-one correspondence, they should be ready for C books. But in my opinion, the leap from B to C requires the biggest jump in reading ability. At level B, all they have to be able to do is match the number of words. For example, if the book reads, “We play music,” and the child says, “I love reading,” the child is correct! Simply because they know that there are three distinct words on the page. (Believe it or not, this is a huge and difficult skill for kids to master.) But in order to read level C books independently, we expect them to read the words accurately. My English language learners have one-to-one correspondence and they can even memorize the patterns in their books, but they still cannot decode, they don’t possess any sight word vocabulary, and they can’t answer comprehension questions because they don’t understand English.
Then she started in on my students who have been stuck at the same reading level since last year. Before I tell you what she said, let me first make it clear that this has been a crusade of mine since our last round of running records. I made a list of all of my students whose levels didn’t change and I posted it up next to my desk. I went through each individual running record, took notes on the exact skills that seem to be holding them back from reaching the next level, and started doing strategy lessons based on those skills. At the time it seemed really daring — checklists be damned!
So then yesterday my AP was like, “I think you need to look into what’s holding them back from reaching the next level. You might need to teach them explicitly those skills. Maybe look at their running records and plan some strategy lessons.”
I don’t know if I should have been…but I felt a little insulted. First of all, I have yet to be observed this year by my AP, and it’s not like we have regular meetings where we plan and discuss these things. So to have her tell me I should be doing something that in actuality I have been working my butt off on, which she would know if we communicated more, was disheartening. In addition to the fact that I felt a little like I was being interrogated in the first place as to why my kids aren’t moving up in a way that made it seem like I didn’t know them and their abilities well enough to be able to explain myself. As if I would sit there and say, “Hey, what the heck! Sure, let’s bump her to C!”
Meanwhile, my colleagues tell me that Teachers College is adamantly against rushing kids through the reading levels, but that my administration has been doing this kind of “Why aren’t your kids moving?” interrogation for years.