I am so excited! I have had a request! Someone from asked me: how can the youth show such significant growth in the standardized test I give them? The answer is multifaceted. First I need to explain the testing we do, and the circumstances with which I work with.
The group home teachers are instructed to give each youth a standardized test, called a WRAT (Writing, Reading, Aptitude Test) when they first arrive and when they leave, in order to show their growth or lack of growth. A 4 part test in spelling, math, word reading and sentence comprehension. It helps to give us a basic sense of where their brain is academically. This is also a good time to talk a little and get a sense of the child’s personality and attitude. I try to wait to give this test with in the first month of their arrival. This gives the youth time to adjust to the group home. They go through a few days to a week of almost denial that they are there. Some seem angry, some accept the situation. So, I give them time.
When the youth arrive, they come in from all sorts of situations. Some arrive with families. Others arrive in handcuffs and shackles from detention centers. This may be the first time they have seen their family in a month or more. Some of the youth that arrive come with academic information such as report cards and a few we are able to get their IEP. Two or three times a year we get youth that have very low IQ levels of <70. In the 5 + years I have worked here, I have observed that if a child has an IQ less than 65 they won’t get much from our program. However, with the tests, we have seen growth even with these low IQ youth. The fact of the matter is, even with all the stress these youth go through, about 85% of them leave showing huge growth. I will give you a few examples.
Most of these children come from single parent or grandparent homes. I remember 8th grader who’s home was not good. His mother never came to see him. She would make promises right up to Friday morning when he earned his visit home and would call and say she couldn’t come and he couldn’t come home…..It broke our hearts. I gave him his first WRAT test 3 weeks after he arrived and he scored very low. 1.7 wr, 1.0 sc, 2.1 sp., 3.5 math. These are grade equivalency numbers. 3 months later he scored 2.4, 1.7, 2.0 and 3.8. Not bad for just 3 months. We found him a foster home and I had the privilege to go with him when the FSS at the time took him. I think he felt much better when I gave it all my blessing.
Another young man who was in 7th grade, seemed to always need to be near me. Every morning when I was trying to get things ready, or at break, there he was…..and I heard he always was ready for church, when he went home but his mom could not get him there. That didn’t discourage him. He kept reading his bible and keeping the faith. He increased his grade levels on those tests incredibly. Wr., 5.4 to 10.3, Sc. 9.9 to 12.9, Sp, 12.7 to 12.9 and math 5.1 to 5.9
We have had some older youth who have come in with psychological and neurological disorders. I expect the same hard work from all youth. I teach them not to use their abilities as disabilities or excuses. One 9th grade female youth suffered from Axiety and it seemed everything triggered it. Other kids laughing or seemed like they were laughing at her, not doing a chore right, getting corrected by staff in firm tones, and she never volunteered to give answers in class or speak in front of the group. “WRATwise” she increased her math from 8.7 to a 12.9, she was a 12.9 in the other areas. She raised her hand to answer questions in my class. She did her project for health and presented it in front of the class. At our annual graduation, the youth are asked if anyone wants to speak and she raised her hand first. I thought her Court counselor was going to fall over. I was proud of her.
One last example is a youth who probably should have never come but I’m glad she did. We were not told of her disability, but when talking to her you could tell, something was not right. After begging with the school for her information we found out that she had an IQ of 63. By the time I found out she was half way through the program. Here’s her results from the test: word reading: 3.5 to 7.4 Sentence comprehension : 6.5 to 8.2 spelling: 5.1 to 6.8 and Math Kindergarten (k.0) to 10.1 Pretty cool!!!!! yet, her mother still worked at night and they lived in a motel. Her perception of the world was quite ……different.
These are just a few examples of the growth. Some did not show growth at all and others only grew in one area. But for all of these youth, growth happens on many different levels and you can’t test all that. The only way to know if they grew as people is to find out how successful they are in life. Every spring there is always a visit or a call from some former youth. The girl with the Anxiety is finishing her GED and has a job that doesn’t cause too much anxiety. The young man who was at my hip, he called and said he is finishing middle school and doing fine. I even had a visit from a youth from my first group, back in 2010, letting us know he’s getting married and is doing well.
I may only have them for 4-6 months now, and maybe, others just think I’m a “glorified babysitter” or just a mild mannered teacher,
but I know that I am a certified NC teacher who chose to work for God and teach the children that others find challenging. I create the transcripts and the IEP’s (in a single bound) . I teach 5 subjects, created a working/growing curriculum, plug in several skills into the lessons, and teach 6 core values everyday to children who don’t want to be there or who view all adults as the “enemy”. (It’s a bird, no it’s super-teacher)
If anything, Methodist Home For Children’s group homes show that with a smaller class size, hard work, structure, and a lot of patience and love, most adjudicated youth can be taught and become successful in life.
Keep the requests coming and God bless you all!!!