I have been reading about Pisa recently, and some of the findings of the most recent maths assessment. Of note, is the difference between how some countries manage learners who are behind their peers.
The most successful countries seem to follow one basic mantra:
Expect no less of learners who are facing challenges to their learning.
But how, you might ask? By beginning this from the beginning, is the answer: learners who are identified as have support needs are supported to achieve; they are not given diminished expectations, they are given support to achieve, and progress, with their peers.
How uplifting for teachers and learners to have ‘whole class learning’ all year round! How uplifting for all learners to experience progression over the course of a year! How uplifting for all learners to have a voice in the classroom at all times for all things, rather than some learners being taken out for support on their ‘alternate plan’! How uplifting for shared success for learners in a classroom, rather than the ‘best’ or ‘most confident’ receiving the majority of accolades!
For countries faring worse on the Pisa test, learners with difficulties had support plans, expectations were lowered and involvement with the life of the classroom was decreased. As you can imagine, if a learner, who has had a lower expectation of learning, takes the same assessment as a peer, who has had a higher expectation of learning, the results will not and cannot be the same!
This problem is easy to describe but difficult to solve, unless a forward thinking individual, with enough authority, encourages a shift in how educators approach expectations for all learners. If schools start supporting learners from the start, while maintaining high expectations for everyone, who’s to say what might happen?