Today’s districts are grappling with how to meet the needs of struggling students. The average student who starts below grade level has a one in four chance of catching up. This means a tremendous number of students are struggling in every school district nationwide. If struggling students face barriers in achieving success, it can impact on-time graduation rates, passing and proficiency rates for high-stakes exams and the number of students who are falling below grade level.
What are the facts about struggling students?
Struggling students have varying needs and reasons they may be struggling, but typically they will be considered one of the following: below proficient readers, students with learning gaps and English language learners (ELL).
- Below proficient readers. Two out of every three eighth graders, or the average student who starts eighth grade, is reading below grade level. Students who have literacy or language obstacles can face extreme barriers to understanding grade-level material across every subject. Only a third of students entering high school are proficient in reading according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
- Students with learning gaps. In a longitudinal study of nearly 13,000 urban students, researchers found that 82 percent of sixth graders who had failed an English class did not go on to graduate from high school. Two out of three eighth graders are below grade level in math. Eighty percent of high school dropouts cited their inability to pass Algebra I as a primary reason for leaving school.
- English language learners. ELL students represent the fastest growing student population in the U.S. One in 10 students are English language learners and nearly three out of four classrooms have at least one ELL student. Yet just one-third of ELL students reach basic proficiency on national exams in math and reading while the dropout rate for ELL students is double the national average.
Attainable instruction for struggling students at every level
To keep struggling students on track for graduation and to help them succeed in grade-level content, it’s important to recognize that different students have different learning needs.
Below Proficient Readers
For below proficient readers, making sense of instruction in any content area can be a struggle. To be successful, students must master the rigorous grade-level content that prepares them for high-stakes assessment of standards. Below proficient readers need several content supports to be accessible including language support, read aloud support, vocabulary support and context-rich instruction that unlocks meaning. Below proficient readers also need the meaning of the content to be accessible and provided through, visualizations, interactive instruction, close reading tools and study guides.
Students with Learning Gaps
Students with learning gaps need to address these gaps so they are better able to interact effectively with grade level content. Once students get on track, they need to stay on track. For these students it’s important to deliver instruction in small learning “chunks” to ensure better processing and retention of their learning. Frequent, non-scored checks for understanding can provide instructive, answer-specific feedback that quickly corrects and validates students’ understanding before they move on to the next task. Adaptive remediation should provide age-appropriate instruction specifically aligned with on-grade skills to build a purposeful path to understanding.
English Language Learners
English language learners need to simultaneously build language proficiency and grade-level mastery. These students benefit from the same literacy supports provided to struggling readers and from additional language supports: language translation as they are transitioning to full English use and understanding, text-to-speech translation and practice through a variety of applications that provide students with guiding feedback that helps solidify understanding.
Providing support for every struggling student is a monumental task for any one teacher, school or district to do on their own. Apex Learning curriculum unlocks success for struggling students with the flexibility to offer more options for more students. Reach out to me today to learn more about how we can support your district with remediation, intervention, exam readiness, credit recovery, alternative education or career and college readiness. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.