In my reporting on schools over the years, I’ve become aware that some students have hearing problems that have made them appear shy or uninvolved. One day, after a while spent wondering about the continually silent girl in the back of the room, I asked her to please come to the front of the room. Soon, indicating that at last she could hear me, she became an active participant in the class. On other similar occasions, I’ve suspected that some students had vision difficulties.
I have heard of rare schools with nurses on the premises, and, at last, more and more schools and districts are recognizing that a vital element of education reform is making sure that every student is wholly present in the classroom—especially when the students attend school in the parts of a city where sizable numbers of children are eligible for free lunches.