Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Case of the Brothers

I was in the school office the other day as was our lead STAR tutor. (Star Tutoring is a special reading program to help kids, who are behind get up to grade level.)

I asked if she knew these brothers. Yes, she did. Then I explained that they were the first kids in the school to complete a reading program that is supposed to take 9 months. She shook her head the whole time I was talking and summed up, "Those boys are not capable of what you just explained to me."

My question to her was, "What do I do?"

She and the assistant secretary (another STAR tutor) thought I should call the boys' mother and explain the program. They gave me her number and I called.

I began with apologizing about how confusing the program was this year. That is true. My sister is helping me this year and she incorrectly explained the program in 5 of the 9 classes. (I did the explaining in the other 4.) This has required emails to the teachers and notes home to the parents to clear up--and still a lot of people are confused.

I was going to explain the program, how it's supposed to take all school year, how only books read this school year count, etc. But she stopped me after the apology and told me that when her boys had read 10 books, they went to pick up the prize and were denied by someone who didn't understand the changes made in the program.

So the boys took their lists home and "read a book a day" until they finished. These include the entire Harry Potter series--all 7 books. Emma reads over 200 words per minute and she has never read a Harry Potter book in 1 day. But the mom's math didn't add up either.

She said, "When they brought the lists home, we had about 2 weeks until the prize redemption day, so we read a book a day until they finished."

But when they brought the lists home they had only read 10 books, by her admission. So in 14 days, these boys read over twenty 4th - 8th grade level books. There is not another child in the school who has done that. I think only 1 has even reached 20 books, and only a handful have read over 10. So we have confirmed that these boys are THE most advanced readers in the entire school.

BTW, their mother won't let them be in resource, even though they qualify. She has requested that nothing special be done to help them. My suspicion is that her own bad experience in resource serves as a guide for that decision.

So after being told all that on the phone by the mother, there was nothing for me to do, but compliment her boys on the astounding feat and get off the phone. I have to admit that I have thought of one more angle. Since I don't want such advanced readers to be bored, I've thought of talking with their mother and suggesting that they do it again. That should be easy for them, especially when most of the kids have only red 2-3 books so far.

I'll let you know if I get any results.


Nancy said...

That's just crazy. I was an excellent reader when I was in elementary school (I was reading before I started kindergarten), but I was never that fast at reading books. Even now (I've gotten way faster at reading) I'm lucky to finish the last couple of Harry Potter books in less than 3 days. I'm positive somebody is lying about how many books they've read.

Shaharac said...

Wow, this is amazing to me. It really kind of sucks you have to give in to her. I think I would be fuming. So, it is a little confusing to me - were they suppose to read 30 books for the big prize or 20? Reading the book a day would be 14? I guess showing mom her math didn't work wasn't really an option. Hmmmm. Bless you for your efforts.

Suzanne said...

I think you've exhausted all of your avenues. If they don't get it, and the mom doesn't get it... they just won't ever get it. My advice is to just give them a prize and cut your losses.

dh said...

OH, MY, Jenna!!! When I read your initial post, I had envisioned short books- like 20 pages or less. Well. I'm sorry, if my judgments were harsh. Clearly I misunderstood and I stand corrected.

I'm glad I don't have any family in your area, otherwise I might worry that this family was someone I was related to. Ha ha.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I can read one of the later Harry Potter books in a day, IF I do NOTHING else. I did it for Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. I'm a fast reader and I review books on my book blog. My 10 year old is a fast reader and there is no way he could read a Harry Potter book in a day. A Magic Tree House type book? Yes. I think something fishy is definitely going on. It's a shame that you have to give in to her.

I guess in the future you really need to clarify the rules. You're awesome to put this kind of program together.

A couple of years ago, my son's school was doing a thing where the kids got rewarded for reading a certain number of minutes in a month. E was in 2nd grade and read and read and his numbers were close to 1800 (I don't remember it exactly now) one month, which added up to about 60 minutes a day for 30 days. (Some days he'd read for 90 minutes other days just 30 minutes.) He was so proud of his accomplishment and then one kid in his class came in and claimed over 10,000 minutes. His mom said that he didn't do ANYTHING except read that month. They were active church members, but I still doubted it. To get those numbers he would have had to read about 5 hours a day for 30 days. A 2nd grader? I'm sorry. I didn't believe it.

Jenna Wood said...

I guess anytime you have a contest or reward of this nature that some people will cheat.

I really, really wish there was something I could do this year to stop cheaters. I'm not even sure that I can stop them next year...

We had a system for stopping cheaters the last 2 years, but it seriously impeded the kids ability to do the program.

dh said...

Well, for stopping cheaters, could you figure out how much a typical kid is able to read (not what the standards are) and then limit counting any reading beyond that? So for instance, for your brothers, if you think that 10 pages is a really high goal for them and 20 impossible, then tell them they can only claim a certain # of pages per day... but I guess you'd have to impose it across the board... Good luck, I'm sure you'll figure something good out.