Introduction Learning Disabilities
Under current general usage, the terms Learning Delayed or Learning Disabled are used to explain significant gaps between tested cognitive ability and actual academic performance. Given policies of guaranteed passing in most primary and elementary schools throughout Canada and the U.S.A., and given modifications to curriculum expectations as part of many Individual Education Plans (IEP), many boys are behind in key areas of literacy and numeracy essential to secondary success measured in eligibility to post-secondary programs.
Rather than accommodating these problems where this is translated as perpetuating them, Robert Land Academy’s program corrects these issues by providing additional support, remediation and diagnostic identification of areas requiring attention. This enables boys to repair weakness and go on with firm foundational strengths to subsequent levels.
Learning Disabilities and Disabled Learning
However learning disabilities are defined, it becomes clear in reviewing student files that core areas of Literacy and Numeracy can become systematically weakened as a result of lack of effort, understanding or poor focus. In such cases, the gap between where students are in terms of normal grade/age functioning and their actual functioning level can widen to the point where the student is effectively disabled.
Given that junior schools now have adopted a no failure philosophy, many students see no downside in not putting forward effort in school and are not doing homework. The majority of males now entering high schools are being placed into programs that preclude admission to university programs and many of the more competitive college programs. The result of this is that the majority of students entering universities are now female. Given that many boys feel that school is a waste of time and serves no purpose, the less work and effort that they can put into school the smarter they perceive themselves to be. As they perceive no connection with what they are doing in the present and what they can do in the future, there is no downside in programs that involve less or no homework and little if any effort. They are able to reassure themselves of their intelligence by playing video games and working the system. As the vast majority of schools no longer accept competition as an acceptable component within academics, it comes as a shock to many students when they are forced to confront the reality of the stiff competition for postsecondary programs.
Robert Land Academy's Program
Many of the boys applying to Robert Land Academy show signs of academic underachievement and some of these have serious weaknesses in core Literacy and Numeracy skills. They are unaware that this will have any impact on post secondary options and will regularly talk about wanting to get into programs that could never be accessed in their previous academic programs or with their academic skill set.
The effect of a no failure policy in junior grades has had a disproportionate effect on boys. Smart boys will ask what they get or do not get as a result of putting in effort in subjects that hold no interest for them or doing work for a teacher they do not like. The fact that grade advancement takes place irrespective of actual achievement is an open invitation for many boys to fall behind. This death of a thousand cuts can lead inexorably to real academic issues and poor performance even when the effort is forthcoming. Poor marks are not necessarily reflective of intelligence. However, they can certainly combine with insecurity to pose a genuine threat to learning.
Our experience shows that once boys can identify a purpose behind schoolwork that their desire to overcome problems greatly increases. By diagnostically identifying areas of weakness in Literacy and Numeracy and providing remediation programs, the majority of boys are capable of making remarkable progress. By providing them with meaningful but obtainable objectives combined with a coaching philosophy towards teaching, they are able to progress and gain confidence through the realization that effort yields results and that their abilities are not fixed.
Closing the Gap
Current generally accepted programs perpetuate and accommodate academic weaknesses and reviews of student files show that this invariably leads to a systemic increase in the gap of learning as students approach the end of secondary school.