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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Don’t wait to get students on track

Singapore gives some students more time to reach its high standards.

In the U.S., disadvantaged kids start school behind on vocabulary and cultural experiences, then fall farther behind as they go through school, writes Marc Tucker. In top-performing countries, such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Finland, Flemish Belgium and Canada, students don’t arrive at middle or high school years behind. “No one waits” till middle school “to fix what is wrong.”

When students start, in kindergarten or first grade in top-performing countries, their teachers assess their health and developmental issues to determine what each child need, Tucker writes.

Student performance is monitored moment by moment in the classroom and, if a problem develops that the regular classroom teacher cannot handle, then all of that students’ teachers work as a team to deal with it.

Some students are given more time to reach the same goals, Tucker writes.

In Singapore, . . . students are put in one of a number of pathways, based on their performance on a reading test in their mother tongue: on two of these pathways, they will get to what we would think of as the college and career standard at the end of the 10th grade.  One of these is an enriched track, which does not get them there faster, but provides them with an enriched curriculum, enabling them to learn the same material at a deeper level.  It is these students who have the best chance of getting into the best universities.  The second track gets the students in it to the same college and career standards, but at the end of 12th grade, not 10th grade.  More recently, Singapore has made it possible for the students who cannot reach these standards by the end of the 12th grade to stay in high school longer until they do achieve them.

“They give up on no one,” Tucker concludes.

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