Student Interventions

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We all know providing feedback to students is crucial and makes a difference to outcomes but about following up students after end of year reports.  Most schools have finished the reporting period and by now are in the post to families.  Every school goes through this process.  But about students who fail to pass subjects or receive an E grade for achievement on course outcomes?  In my day if you go enough of these you struggled to go on.  In some school systems like France you don’t move on either still.  In Australia though most are promoted and the report outcomes are forgotten in the holiday whirl.  How many schools start the new academic year by analysing the previous years report data on students and following up by providing interventions for students who did not meet satisfactory level of outcomes? We could this couldn’t we?

In reading Pasi Sahlberg’s outstanding book Finish Lessons he makes the point in Finland, one of the top performing educational systems in the world over the past decade, that students receive learning support immediately they start falling behind their peers.  This makes sense. Intervention that is timely and when needed.  It appears to me we need to start 2014 by not only analysing learning profiles of incoming or new students who have high learning needs but also to analyse and provide interventions for those who have just completed a year at our school.  That is also a high priority.

In thinking about this every school has a range of strategies for this, most of them revolve around the Learning Support arm of the school.  Most of these sections in schools are struggling to meet student needs now due to high demand on their time so schools need to think creatively around this.  All teachers need training in basic reading recovery and literacy programs as they are first and foremost teachers.  Primary schools in Australia do this really as many schools rotate teachers from face to face classes to other support roles in the school like literacy or reading recovery programs.  High schools need to get better at this.  One way teachers could take on more is for all teacher who finish under a normal teaching load on the timetable could instead be given a “learning support” period or two and be assigned some students who failed to meet the required report outcomes.  If they failed to meet them in 2013 then are we doing our best to help them start 2014?

Examine one method of reading recovery intervention: “To give an example, thanks to a programme called Reading Recovery, we now know how the large majority of children aged six who have fallen behind with their reading can be helped. In a number of countries, including New Zealand, the US and the UK, a targeted intervention lasting a few months enables children with literacy issues to catch up. The programme is just the sort of personalised activity that Plomin wants – but it’s nothing to do with genetics. Admittedly it is expensive. However, over the long term the cost-benefit analyses show, quite aside from the improvements to children’s enjoyment of reading and their self-esteem, that the programme more than pays for itself. Eventually, good readers typically end up paying more taxes”.

Thought for the day: We need to do all that we can to help every student in our schools to achieve to the best of their ability, especially those who most need our help.

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