Posted by: malibulearning | September 14, 2011

Are MORE Students Struggling With School? YES! Part 2 of 3

Article by Jill Greenberg


In part I I discussed how “pushing” curriculum down into lower grades has caused students who previously didn’t struggle, to begin finding the work harder and excessive as early as first grade.

Now let’s take a look at students who used to struggle slightly before the workload increased.  In order to understand this idea, take a look at the diagram below:

Student Population (average and above IQ)

        70%                          21%-25%           5%-9%              

No barriers to learning         Learning difficulties           Learning Disabilities

There are about 70% of students with average or above IQs that have no barriers at all to their learning.

There are somewhere between 5% and 9% of students who have diagnosed learning disabilities.  That means even though they have a very capable IQ, there are issues that get in the way of learning.  These usually show up as reading and spelling difficulties.  That means between  2,450,000 and 4, 410,000 public school students are diagnosed with learning disabilities.  These students usually don’t get tested until they are 2+ grade levels behind their classmates.

Additionally, between 10, 290,000 and 12, 250, 000 students fall into the “grey zone.”  It’s the “no man’s land that we hear politicians talking about.

These  are students who have the very same learning issues, just not as severe as those diagnosed “learning disabled.”  The difference is that they are not as far behind…the discrepancy between their potential and their performance isn’t as large, even though they still have to work much harder than their peers to try to keep up.

Often those students are called lazy, attention challenged, or behavior problems.  We might say things like “School just isn’t their thing.”  It is such a tragedy because these kids typically won’t qualify for help at school unless they are 2 or more years behind.  So if they work really hard and are only 1 ½ years behind their classmates, they don’t get extra help.

But the truth is, like the learning disabled, they have the very same weak underlying skills that can be taught, but aren’t addressed in school.  Schools assume that the skills required to make learning easy are already in place when children begin kindergarten.  Research tells us this just isn’t true for about 30% of students.

Roughly 15,000,000 students with average or above IQs are going to struggle with school even when the amount of work and the level of work are appropriate for their age.

We can have quite a debate as to whether or not it is the school’s job to fill in the missing skills for these 15,.000,000 students.  But whether or not they should be teaching memory, auditory and visual processing, attention, etc., schools are not trained, budgeted or staffed to take on this big job in addition to the huge job of teaching academic curriculum.

What happens when we take those students who are already struggling in school and suddenly “ramp up” the workload and make it more difficult?

You guessed it.  The problems multiply.  Suddenly it looks as if there are more students struggling.  Remember from part 1, many of the 70% who have no barriers to their learning are finding  the homework overwhelming.

So again, are there more students struggling?  Yes, and those who were going to struggle anyway are having more difficulties than before.  Those who struggled a little, now struggle earlier and more often.

These numbers remain relatively consistent.  We know that about 30% of intelligent students are going to have some degree of difficulty with underlying processing skills.  Moving the curriculum down and increasing the workload rather than teach the weak skills, simple exacerbates the problems.

In part 3 I’ll look at the third factor creating more struggling students.

Jill Greenberg, M.Ed. is the owner of the Malibu Learning Center where struggling students are trained to become comfortable, independent learners.

Visit us at     (310) 457-3707


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