One of the most heartbreaking conundrums in any teacher’s life is a student who does not quite qualify for special education services, and who is failing or almost failing. Often these are the students who struggle to learn how to read at grade level or succeed at basic math or even develop the necessary school skills to manage their learning tasks. As they grow older, these students often shut down, are disruptive, unmotivated, and frustrated until they finally become at-risk for dropping out of school.
The pattern for a student who falls through the cracks in our education system is unfortunately uniform in school after school. A frustrated teacher or parent asks for help because of growing dismay at the child’s inability to achieve even though he or she may be working diligently. Conferences are held. Discussion ensues. The child is tested (often after months of waiting for this service). Another meeting is held where the concerned adults are advised that the child is just barely missing the qualifying deficits for special needs qualifications, even though they still may have many of the same negative behaviors and failures that identified students have.
Too often students who fall through the cracks present themselves as lazy or uncaring. And who can blame them? If you suspect that you have or can anticipate that you will have students who could fall between the cracks, there is a great deal that you can do to support them.
First, learn as much as you can about their learning styles and their school history as well as their home situation. Talk to past teachers and parents or guardians. Study permanent records. Look at test score data. Observe their work habits. Do all that you can to understand the barriers to success for these students. Research their strengths as well. Helping students learn to identify their learning strengths will increase their persistence levels and give them confidence in their abilities to succeed at school tasks....