Thursday, June 11, 2009

Second Grade wrap-up

Yesterday was AJ's last day of second grade. I think we were all ready for it. The last month or so has been tough on all of us.

AJ came home with a pile of old projects and a report card stuffed with test scores. The report card was...not great. Many of his marks slipped from the last report card, mostly in the category of "learning/social characteristics," which is the non-academic stuff. AJ has definitely struggled this year with his classroom behavior. He has had a particularly hard time keeping himself focused in the face of the many distractions of a small classroom crammed with 26 kids. But he also, apparently, has had motivation issues. We've seen it at home too. A lot of it is, I think, boredom. But he's also balking at more challenging work, not wanting to work too hard. In the past, such reticence has often been based on a sense of social isolation, wanting to do the same thing everyone else is doing. But this time, it seems to be more about fear of failure or sometimes just plain laziness. It's a behavior we'll need to watch carefully. At the moment, we're addressing it by reiterating our expectations that he try his best.

The distraction issue is something I'd like to work on over the summer, to find ways of keeping him more focused. One of the things I've notice about AJ, and about many kids his age, especially boys, is that he concentrates better when he is moving. When he works on his homework, he is often moving around or fidgeting with something and he does well. He can't do this in the classroom. We need to help him channel his energy.

The test scores were another matter. We finally got the official notice of the OLSAT. We also got the report on the ISEL, the individually administered state standard test. The results of both were a little puzzling. For the ISEL, which is an achievement test, AJ was in the 100th percentile in most areas. But his lowest area -- noticeably lower -- was verbal comprehension. This was the same area that had given AJ the most trouble on the OLSAT, an aptitude test, where it was also the only percentile below the 90s. AJ took the ISEL last year too and the score was more than 10 percentage points lower than the last time he took the test -- a significant difference. But that isn't the weird part. The weird part is that verbal comprehension was his highest score on the WISC, at the very top of the range at 99.9th percentile. What accounts for this drastic difference between tests? I know it's probably not fair to compare the tests in this way. But still, what is the reason for a nearly 20 percentage point difference between his scores in the same area? I wish I knew.

Has anyone else experienced such anomalies?

We still have one more round of test results, for the ITBS, due in sometime this month. Then we're off the hook for a while.

In addition to all his projects, he brought home a book of letters to him, one from each member of his class, his teacher and her aid. They've been working on these letters for months. Each child got the chance to be the "Star Student" for the day and got to make a poster and get up in front of the class and talk about their favorite things. Then the rest of the class wrote letters in response. The letters from the students were wonderful and sweet. But the one from his teacher made my day because she wrote it in a code for him to decipher. I was thinking about how hard they both struggled to understand each other at the beginning of the year. The code was perfect and AJ loved it. She's done a good job of trying to figure him out.

Over the next few weeks, AJ will be busy with sports and piano lessons and camps, including two weeks at the camp for gifted kids he attended last summer. I was, unfortunately, too late to sign him up to get the fabulous physics teacher he had last summer, who this year is teaching their most popular computer gaming course. But he'll be taking art, science and geometry, and he's very excited about it all.

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