On Friday afternoon I met with the school counselor at one of our local middle schools. One of my students has had serious challenges with written language. Even now in Grade 7 he sounds out every word that he reads. He has somehow found a way to understand everything he reads, despite his halting, stuttering way of reading, but learning to read was a real challenge for him and he continues to be a slow reader. In addition to his struggles with reading, he really struggles with writing. He is able to compose sentences fairly well, but his spelling is so atrocious that other people would not be able to read his work. He misspells simple sight words (so is soe, for example).
The meeting was incredibly productive and the psychologist and the principal were very supportive and were convinced at the end of it that this child needs their help. They're going to assess him and find what he needs and how they can help him.
After this meeting, though, I'm feeling pretty bad that his challenges haven't been addressed before now. I mentioned to them that he has been a concern from 2nd grade on and it was so clear in the conversation how sad it is that he has been a concern for so long and that he's getting help now in 7th grade. The whole thing has me determined to help in setting up some sort of assessment standard to use in our school. It's interesting how our school's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. It's wonderful that our teachers are independent enough to teach to the class what seems most important for that particular class. We don't have to worry about testing and assessing ability is solely up to the individual teacher. In many ways I can assess my students' abilities better than anyone. But at the same time, I'm quite close to the situation and it's sometimes difficult to know what to do. It's quite easy to just keep plugging along, doing the work that needs to be done, without really addressing individual students' needs. There just isn't time for it. I think, though, that if I had another teacher look over my students' work with me and then we had guidelines about what should be done when there is a question about a student's achievement, this student's challenges would have been addressed earlier.
Anyway, I'm glad something is being done now and I hope that I can help set something up so that this kind of challenge doesn't go on for so long in the future.