Is it normal to track 1st graders into classes according to academic level? I feel that my son's confidence has been hurt by this practice.
My son is about to enter first grade. Last year in Kindergarten the teachers grouped their students into four academic groups--high, medium, medium/low and low. My son was in the "lowest" group. As a volunteer in the room, I saw that the teachers didn't truly "teach" in those groups; what I saw was "correcting" of their work. I believe that my son was affected by their teaching. He would call himself "dumb" and say he couldn't read even though he reads pretty well for his age. Now, as we start the first grade, I see they have separated the classes themselves by academic level, there is a high class, a medium and a low class. My son has been put into a low class. I'm somewhat confused because no one else seems to think this is unethical. The higher level class is being taught by a highly requested teacher, the medium class by the second most requested teacher, and the low level class by a teacher with health problems who is new to the grade level. My son's skills are actually very good for 1st grade, so I surprised that he is in the low class. I am heartbroken that my son seems pigeon-holed this early in life. Can you help me with any kind of advice.
Start by speaking to the teacher, principal and the special studies teacher and find out why and how he got classified. Then, ask what the achievements need to be to get out of that group and who and when and how often will he be evaluated and will it be independent of the teacher or a team or just the teacher. Establish rapport with the team and offer to be part of the "fixing" your son will thank you.
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics