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….