Do the Right Thing for Kids is publishing stories like the following in order to provide understanding of what is happening and not happening in the Kansas City School District classrooms and why educational achievement is not improving significantly. This is the second in a series of stories written by people who are in the school observing what is happening on a regular basis. Actual names of writers, students and staff members have been changed.

I met Sophia in first grade, such a sweet, sweet little girl with pretty brown hair and a great smile. We bonded quickly. Our friendship continued through 6th grade. I met with her once a week to work on reading.

Sophia’s Hispanic family included five children. Because of our long relationship, I got to know her strong and loving mother at school. Her stepfather worked daily; her mother made beautiful crafts that she sold in the park. At one time the children were sleeping on the floor of their apartment due to bed bugs. Because of my relationship with her mother, I was able to work with a group who donated money to buy new mattresses and bed frames for the children.

Sophia had a premature birth. Before entering school she was in an accident leaving her with a brain concussion. She was eager to learn, but it was quite apparent her cognitive skills were very slow. Sight words were difficult to remember, but oh how much she wanted to pretend and guess the words. Her teachers gave me no direction, often saying, “Do with her what you can.” It seemed to me they had decided she couldn’t learn or it took time to teach her they did not have. She was ignored since she was not a troublemaker. I asked each year about special help. Often the staff would say her mother had not signed on for help.

Since the teachers had apparently done nothing to get extra help for Sophia, I finally talked with the principal myself. She immediately made Sophia’s new journey begin. Miss D, the special Education teacher, and an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher began intentional work with Sophia. Ms. D taught her practical reasons to learn math, like counting change when shopping. Sophia became excited about her caring teachers who understood her limitations but pushed her to go forward. She thrived and seemed so happy with her progress.

Sophia moved on to middle school, and I have lost track of her. I can only hope that she is not being ignored and is progressing with teachers who understand and wish to help her succeed. How very sad that Sophia was left behind in her earlier school years. I worry about who will care for her and advocate for the special attention she needs. What will happen to Sophia If she cannot read and compute at very basic levels?

—A Volunteer

Read the first post in this series, about Daniel

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