New research making me think deeper about next year

I am crossing my fingers tightly that Mike’s teacher promotes Mike to first grade in May. If not, I have a tough decision about what I should do as a parent.

New research is saying repeating grades is not a good idea. A press release on the research is posted here.

I e-mailed the researcher, Dr. Huang, and he said it was my decision whether Mike should repeat kindergarten and that “Research though, on average, has discussed that repetition by itself may not be the best thing for a child. Usually, if the child repeats, it is more of the ‘same thing’.

I continue to find more research that finds repeating of grades doesn’t guarantee improvement. Here is more research showing that point.

Research does say that children who struggle with reading can benefit from repeating a grade. But Mike does not struggle with reading. He does need to work on reading comprehension and I have been working to improve his comprehension.

I am already in agreement with Mike’s teacher that he should attend the district’s summer reading program, which will work on reading, comprehension, writing and art over about 16 days. I will never turn down any educational services for my children.

Mike’s struggle is math, not reading. In November, Mike’s teacher told me that the reading skills would be the big factor in deciding about promotion and that math is just an  introduction.

That is fine with me. I’ll have three months to catch up Mike where he should have been at the end of kindergarten. Last May, Mike finished preschool with knowing a few letter sounds. It wasn’t the preschool’s fault because he wasn’t ready to absorb the material.

After a month of working with me one-on-one, Mike learned all his letter sounds and could tell me which letter started certain words. When he tested for DIBLES in September, he placed right among his peers for reading skills. I believe I can catch up Mike again over the summer.

So why am I so scared of Mike repeating kindergarten? My second grade teacher recommended me to repeat. I only learned this a few weeks ago because I randomly found my elementary school report records in the attic. My parents disagreed and I was placed in a special program to catch me up while I continued to third grade.

If I had repeated second grade, I believe it would have destroyed me. I faced a lot of bullying in middle school and I can imagine it would have been even worse if I repeated a grade.

Then, the fourth grade teacher for an older brother recommended that he repeat. My father agreed and it destroyed Jack, who finished high school at 19 years old. My widowed mother had to fight Jack to not drop out of high school. Jack attended college and it took him 8 years to finish a 4-year degree.

Jack never did well in school. He most likely has Asperger Syndrome. Instead of looking at what is the real problem in Jack’s academics, his teacher thought teaching him the same material in the same way would solve his academic problems.

So if Mike’s teacher wants Mike to repeat kindergarten, there better be a plan of action. Repeating a grade is not a plan of action.

Mike will receive services in math and a first-grade reading program from day one of the school year or he will not repeat kindergarten. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to this.

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Getting nervous about next year

In November, Mike’s teacher said she would decide who would be promoted to first grade in May.

I cannot believe that this is next month. Where did the time go? Honestly, I am scared whether Mike will be promoted to first grade. A week before Mike became sick from the stomach flu in March, he started rushing his work so much that he needed two worksheets to complete one assignment.

That phase was over after two weeks but Mike is still rushing his work. His grades are fine. Mike just got a 78 for the last nine-week term in math. That grade is up from 72 in the second term and 64 from the first term.

Mike got a 83 for reading/writing for the third term, making this an increase of 4 points since the first term.

For me, Mike has come so far. In November, his teacher and I were worried that he could not sound out words like cat, bat and mat. He read his first classroom book to his teacher in December. Students will be expected to read three sentences per page by June.

Mike is doing great reading two sentences per page. Sometimes he rushes and says the wrong word for the words he knows. Mike’s teacher says that students who struggle in reading in first grade are those students who can’t absorb sight words.

Mike had a 94 percent in sight words for the third term and he is picking up the new sight words very well.

Meanwhile, math is still a struggle but I have a wonderful, caring principal who placed Mike in an after-school math program three times a week. It is a bit crazy that a kindergartner is in an after-school program but the earlier he gets help, the better it will be for Mike.

I wish I could connect with Mike’s teacher like I can with the principal. I worked so hard to get Mike ready for kindergarten and help him throughout the school year but I don’t see the same enthusiasm for my kid from the teacher.

So, every day I tell Mike to slow down in doing his work and his preschool teacher tells him the same when she sees him several times a week. Mike can prove that summer boys with developmental delays can succeed in kindergarten with the right support.

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Meeting declared a success

I walked out of my conference meeting at Mike’s elementary school with more confidence that hope exists for him to graduate from kindergarten this year.

I only wished that the teacher would have provided the same information to me by e-mail so this meeting could have been avoided.

Mike has been doing so well with his reading specialist that he is only being kept in the program to help boost his confidence by giving him small group attention. His scores for reading are right where they need to be for a kindergartener.

Meanwhile, Mike’s kindergarten teacher has been doing 0-20 flashcards with Mike every day so he knows his numbers. Knowing his numbers is Mike’s biggest struggle.

His teacher said he was slightly below the middle of the pack in reading. He continues to develop on the same path as the beginning of the school year. I didn’t ask where he placed in math because I know he is struggling and needs more time to catch up.

I saw Mike’s assessments in reading and math. Mike is doing great for reading and I credit that to Reading Eggs, the best $40 I’ve spent on an online program. It was disappointing to see his assessments for math.

The principal promised me that Mike will get any services that he needs in math. The teacher said before that there wasn’t help for math so I don’t know why she would say that.

Mike is still dependent on his teacher for help but he is becoming more independent. I have been reminding Mike every day before I drop him off to school that he needs try to do his work on his own.

I am continuing to work hard with Mike at night so he continues to progress in kindergarten. He can succeed in kindergarten even with being the youngest student and having developmental delays.

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Nerves shot over lack of communication

My meeting with Mike’s kindergarten teacher has yet to happen. The teacher had a family emergency and needed me to reschedule last Monday.

Thankfully, the principal understands I want the school’s staff to do whatever it takes to help my son with developmental delays. But still I do not know what concerns the teacher has with Mike’s progress. It’s a frustrating place to be when half the school year is over.

I was hoping to learn the time when I would meet with school staff today sometime yesterday afternoon. The principal wants to meet with me and the Student Support Team counselor. But my luck, the principal is very sick with the flu. The hoops I have to jump through just to have a meeting.

I have been trying to figure out what is being expected of my son as a kindergartener. I e-mailed the director of curriculum, assessment and development to ask her what material is covered in kindergarten and what a student needs to accomplish to be promoted to kindergarten.

That director forwarded my message to the district psychologist, the woman who apparently answers questions that could be sensitive. My two main concerns weren’t even addressed. The district psychologist only answered my concerns by telling me that the proper procedure was followed with my son to evaluate him for possible disabilities that would make him eligible to receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

So the expectations are a big hush-hush, apparently. I do not understand why the district psychologist avoided my questions.

I thought the district would be more open to answer parents’ questions with the new superintendent. Staff from the district came to Mike and Steve’s preschool to see what is taught to students coming into the district. Then, at least one preschool teacher will visit a kindergarten classroom in my district.

This new development made it seem that the district would be more open about communicating its expectations for students to parents.

Whatever the reasons for not telling me the district’s standards, I hope I will have a meeting with someone working for the district soon.

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Nervous about another teacher meeting

Back in November, Mike’s teacher told me that if Mike continued to have problems we would meet again in January. Well, that meeting is on Monday and I am nervous.

I wrote a note in Mike’s folder asking Mrs. Warner whether we would need to meet this month. I was hoping Mrs. Warner would say no and send me information on Mike’s progress by e-mail.

I would be calmer about this meeting if Mrs. Warner would have told me in her e-mail message about her concerns about Mike. I have been frustrated by the lack of communication from Mrs. Warner. I initiate all communication and Mrs. Warner never expresses any sympathy or emotions to help me stay calm.

Right now, Mike’s grades aren’t too bad. His reading/writing grade is an 81 and math is a 68. His math grade seems low but it is much better than the 60 he had in December.

I am concerned about Mike’s math grade so I e-mailed the district’s director of curriculum, assessment and development about help Mike could get in math. I knew her when she was a high school principal. It sounds a bit extreme to contact someone so high-ranked in district administration but I need to make sure Mike gets the help he needs.

The administrator called the school principal to have him contact the Student Support Team so it is aware of Mike’s issues in math. If Mike doesn’t make the progress he should be making, Mike will be re-evaluated.

I was hoping that Mike somehow would be eligible for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) back in September to keep me, the teacher and school staff on the same page and make them have regular contact with me about Mike’s progress.

But now I will have to see what can be done for Mike without an IEP to make sure he gets the services he needs to succeed in school.

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Mike gives his teacher a surprise

I pick up Mike from school every day and last week I had a surprising interaction with his teacher. She wanted to talk to me and Mrs. Warner seemed so happy.

Mike read a level one reader book to her with fluency. Mike has been sounding out words on Reading Eggs for a week. I was wondering when he would show this ability in school.

It was surprising the book that Mike had read to his teacher. The words were ones that Mike started practicing two days ago. I can imagine the shock Mrs. Warner felt when she witnessed Mike read the book to her.

It was only a week ago that I approached her about how Mike was doing in reading words because he began sounding out words at home. Mrs. Warner said Mike needed to sound out words more consistently in class.

Then one week later, Mike is reading a book in school. It was only a month ago that Mrs. Warner had concerns that Mike couldn’t put sounds together to read words.

I am so grateful for finding Reading Eggs. I know free programs exist online to help kids to read but the $40 US dollars I spent for a 6 months subscription have been so well spent.

Mike is about to finish the seventh map of 12 maps in the program. He still has a love for the program after three months. That says a lot when kids can easily get bored with programs.

Now, only if I could find a similar program for math for Mike. He is struggling with one-on-one correspondence in math. Once, he gets over this struggle, I will glow like a light bulb over my son taking on the developmental delays like a champ.



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Letter sounds click together to reach a major milestone

Mike has known all his letter sounds since the beginning of summer. The struggle has been to get him to understand how to combine those sounds to read words.

He has been covering that concept for several weeks in kindergarten and two and a half months on Reading Eggs. Tired of the whining that reading is too hard while Mike does his reading list for kindergarten, I told him that he knew all his letter sounds and he just needs to say the sound of each letter of words.

Everything clicked two days ago in Mike. He whipped through three columns of words on his weekly homework. I was so excited and so was Mike. He also showed his preschool teacher some words he could read from his weekly homework.

A month ago, his kindergarten teacher was concerned that Mike could not grasp the concept of combining letter sounds to read words, in addition to rhyming and identifying ending sounds. Now, Mrs. Warner is finally showing some enthusiasm I have never seen. She has been working hard to help Mike every way she can but her enthusiasm in today’s e-mail says it all.

“I am definitely seeing Mike trying to sound out more words on his own.  Hopefully this will continue!!,” she wrote to me after I told her about Mike’s new development at home.

Then today, Mike brought home a double-sided worksheet on beginning and ending sounds. Mike missed one answer for the ending sounds. That is remarkable after Mike could hardly get a few answers on ending sounds right on worksheets with Mrs. Warner helping Mike one-on-one.

Last week, he matched several words on his own for a worksheet. At the same time, Mike’s reading specialist recommended this free website to help him with rhyming. Now, Mike rhymes well on his own and understands rhyming so much better.

This new development comes in perfect timing. Mike will be tested for DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) next month to see where he places among his peers for reading. With some work on reading, he should do well on DIBELS as he did in September.

Mike would not be reading words if I wasn’t on top of his teacher to make sure he gets the help he needs in school nor working one-on-one with him at home. His academic developmental delay doesn’t doom him to struggle in school for years.

Mike needs more help than some students but he can be successful if he gets the right help as soon as problems are noticed.

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