Common Core does not honestly tackle a problem that should be front and center in our public schools. How do we address ability grouping? Should students with learning disabilities be educated separately or in the regular class? Do autistic children learn faster mainstreamed or with specialized help in a self-contained classroom or separate school? Are gifted kids better off learning with other gifted kids?
How should students be grouped when they arrive at the schoolhouse door?
Even students not in special education are different. Should we track students or detrack? How does a regular teacher manage so many academic, social, and cultural needs?
With Common Core, required standards are held in front of all students like a carrot, to master any way they can. The trouble is, if students can’t reach the carrot, they go hungry!
Questions surrounding how students are grouped are not easily answered, and with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) they aren’t really addressed. Common Core advocates Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a murky plan to offer students a variety of methods (assistive technology) to get to the standards. There is no proof this works, or that it is being implemented, especially without controlling class size.
Yet, one could argue that how children are grouped in school is one of the most difficult questions surrounding education. But how do you discuss helping unlike students work together when Common Core wants everyone to be alike and reach the same goals? How do you address the big questions concerning differences when the developers of CCSS end all questions?
Before Common Core became the law of the land, public schools tried, and might still try in some places, to uniquely arrange classes to help students learn. Looping, giving young students the same teacher for two years, and multi-age grouping are two examples that have demonstrated some success.
But CCSS, offers the same pablum to all children without really considering differences. And if you mention individualization beware! There most likely will be a chain charter school waiting around the corner, set up with carrels of computers. CEOs and politicians like to tout individualization through technology. But without computers, most aren’t so worried about class sizes of 40.
Joanne Yatvin’s reply to my post the other day about the way her school once handled gifted students, got me to thinking about ability grouping. Perhaps the answer is that there are different solutions depending on the school, the school district, and the characteristics and learning needs of the student population. Grouping might change from year to year.
But serious consideration of ability grouping is not easy. It takes forethought and time for planning. It requires serious consideration by people who know and are vested in the lives of children and the community. It might also require an instructional designer.
Small classes, pull-out resource classes, online, teacher-led, remedial, special ed. areas including gifted centers. You could also include addressing the cultural needs unique to the location of the school. You certainly should consider poverty. Mix it up a bit and make an attempt to drop the labels. But always…always…reflect on the students who will arrive at school ready to lean.
It’s just a thought.
But with Common Core there is no debate…no real consideration about ability grouping. You are either on the right road to success, or you are not. With Common Core it is about survival of the fittest….
Research shows that gifted kids need to be together. They push and challenge each other. Sadly Common Core is forcing schools to use gifted students as peer tutors and teacher helpers rather than pushing them forward. School scores are based more in bringing the bottom up than helping the top soar. We need to bring back the days when our best and brightest were taught together all day long. The future of this country rests on those young minds.
Nancy Bailey says
I used to lean towards inclusion, but class sizes are huge and I’ve seen schools with few if any real services for gifted students. So my thinking on this has changed in general. I tend to agree with you, Meg. Gifted students can find other outlets to mingle socially with a variety of students even in school.
That said, I think Joanne Yatvin made a compelling point the other day. If a school works out the glitches some gifted students might do well mainstreamed.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say might it not be the level of giftedness that determines a self-contained gifted class?
The point I wanted to make with this post was professionals should learn who is coming to their schools and work on a plan for serving them.
Certainly there is a debate here. But with CC there is none. My second point and yours as well.
Last, the peer tutoring thing really is upsetting. Gifted students are denied programming than used. I wonder if their parents know!
Thanks again Meg for a great reply.
Kimberly Fields says
Interestingly I brought up the idea of considering ability grouping as we construct classes for the next school year. I was actually suggesting that classes be composed of ranges of abilities.i made a crude sketch for L-M, M-H, M-G, and immediately there were cries of, “that’s illegal” For example, having text level assessment scores ranging from 3-18 in one second grade class, and ranging from 10- 24 in another class, and 24-36 in another class, is just shortening the range and making it more manageable for the instructor. Furthermore, I have found the greater the achievement gap is between students the more the lower performers start to shut down and defer to the higher kids. Likewise, the higher ones start to believe they are brilliant, when in fact they may just be average or slightly above. This year the TLA range in my 2nd grade class of 18 children was 3-32 at the beginning of the year. Now it is 8-36. I don’t use students to tutor others. They are all children and come to school to be student learners, not student teachers! Can someone explain this to the brilliant people who are designing curriculum and assessments for students that keep them looking like failures year after year because they never get the time from a dedicated teacher to really help them to catch up, because the teacher is torn into so many different directions?