At Stories from School, Kim has given up honors classes to work with colleagues on a catch-up program for ninth graders who failed two or more eighth-grade classes. Most will be non-white, low-income and male. Without something special, these kids are very likely to fail in high school, give up and drop out.
I’ve been looking for more ways to bring kinesthetic activities into an English classroom where basic skills in reading and writing are a top priority, and believe me, there just aren’t that many kinesthetic activities when it comes to the actual tasks of reading and writing. Kinesthetic projects and responses to literature I have aplenty. Actually getting them moving when they’re reading and writing is pretty difficult – especially at the high school level.
We’ve also been exploring alternative assessment and trying to figure out how that will fit in. One of our discussions right now is how we will balance responsibility and mastery. We’re playing with the idea that student can pass our final exams with a 75% or better, it won’t matter whether they turned in assignments or not, as long as the tests prove mastery in skills and content. But if we do this, are we setting them up to fail when they move on to more conventional teachers?
It will be exhilirating, writes Kim. Or it will be hell.
Meanwhile, I’ve been asked to suggest high-interest books for sixth, seventh and eighth graders who read at the third, fourth and fifth grade level. Downtown College Prep’s Alviso campus is hoping to build a library that will include a wide range of fun books — including science, biography, adventure, sports, anything that will get kids reading without frustration. (Eventually, some “challenge” books will be on the list too.) Suggestions are welcome. Most students come from low-income and working-class Mexican-American families; 59 percent are male and 23 percent are considered disabled.