KTM User Pages
21 Apr 2006 - 16:12
from Dan (bulleted version below):
I happened to have a meeting with my daughter’s teacher yesterday about the kind of differentiated instruction that I like. It’s not enrichment or pull-out from the heterogeneous group. It’s actual homogeneous ability grouping. My daughter is in first grade in a K-5 public school. I don’t know if the school previously had some homogenous ability grouping for reading at the upper levels before or not. I do know that this is the first year that they’ve taken the grouping all the way down to the first grade level. So, four days a week, my six-year-old leaves her homeroom class and goes down the hall to a different first grade teacher for her “reading block.” There are four first grade classes in this school, so they have four levels of reading groups. Let’s call them A, B, C, and D, where the D group has the most proficient readers, and the A group kids were still shaky on the alphabet back at the beginning of the school year. They call it a reading block, but it also includes spelling and other activities. I can’t speak with certainty, because I haven’t done any thorough analysis. Still, I think that the results of this grouping have surprised the teachers. My daughter is in the D group (highest ability). Every week, these kids are learning spelling words that rival the difficulty of the words used in my other daughter’s fourth grade class. Here are a few of the words she brought home this week: Wednesday, beautifully, anniversary, rectangle. The reading teacher has also borrowed materials from a third grade teacher to have the kids do an invention convention, where they each designed some new invention, described it, prototyped it, and created a script for an advertisement for it. They also worked with their parents to research an existing invention and its inventor. Then, the child had to write a report on it. For all of these writing steps, the teacher had them turn in drafts, which she then corrected for them to rewrite. I think it turned out very well. They’ve also read and reported on biographies. They’ve learned alphabetization and dictionary skills. Any of these things, taken by itself, is perhaps not so amazing. I can’t imagine, though, that so many topics could really be covered—and understood—with this level of quality if pursued in the context of a heterogeneous ability class. My understanding is that the grouping is also quite successful for the lower groups. We were talking to my daughter’s homeroom teacher. She has the A group (lowest proficiency). I might be misremembering my numbers, but I think she said she began the year with 23 kids in her group. Several have moved up to other groups; she has 16 now. When the rest of the class is not leaving them behind, even the lowest performers can make real progress. I think it’s great that she has the fewest students at this point, because they probably need the most attention. The teacher also told us about a girl that had recently moved up from the C group to the D group. Nobody is locked in and held back. The reason we were meeting was to ask about next year. Given that our kid has done a project usually pursued in third grade and is handling spelling words that match those in fourth grade, how are they going to deal with her in second grade? The answer is that nobody is quite sure. This is also the first year that they’ve done ability-based reading groups in second grade. Next year, though, will be the first time they will be confronted with students coming out of ability-grouped first grade reading. I expect the second grade teachers to be blown away. We also face some uncertainty about math instruction in second grade. The first graders have not been regrouping for math. Instead, this is where some pull-out acceleration has been applied. My daughter is not yet automatic with her multiplication facts, but her teacher has started giving her some division problems. There’s no way they can start next year by asking her to plod along with Saxon second grade. It will be interesting, but I am very optimistic. To me, this is pretty close to the right way to do differentiated instruction.
I am firmly convinced, at this point, that flexible ability grouping - Susan's term - is tremendously helpful for average and slow learners. Here is Tom Loveless's description of tracking in a Catholic High School:
Reba Page’s 1991 study, Lower Track Classrooms, painstakingly reports on the daily activities of eight low track classes, documenting how they often function as caricatures of high tracks, how teachers and students in low tracks make deals to not push each other too hard so that they can cope with their environment. Low tracks may be used as holding tanks for a school’s most severe behavior problems. [snip] Intellectually stimulating low track classrooms do exist, however, and researchers have found the most productive of them in Catholic schools. Margaret Camarena and Adam Gamoran have described low track classrooms where good teaching, lively discussions, and ample learning take place. In 1990, Linda Valli published her study of a heavily tracked Catholic high school in an urban community. The school’s course designations publicly proclaimed each student’s track level. Textbooks and instruction were adapted for each track. Yet Valli discovered that "a curriculum of effort" permeated the entire school, even the lowest tracks. The school culture centered around academic progress, and the tracking system was but another facet of the school that served this aim. Students of all abilities were aggressively pushed to learn as much as they could. Every year, low track students were boosted up a level. By the senior year, the lowest track no longer existed. A judicious tracking system teaches low track students what they need to know and moves them out of the low track as quickly as possible.
in a nutshell:
sources cited by Loveless: Linda Valli, "A Curriculum of Effort: Tracking Students in a Catholic High School," in eds. Reba Page and Linda Valli, Curriculum Differentiation: Interpretive Studies in U.S. Secondary Schools (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), pp. 45-65. Margaret Camarena, "Following the Right Track: A Comparison of Tracking Practices in Public and Catholic Schools," in eds. Reba Page and Linda Valli, Curriculum Differentiation: Interpretive Studies in U.S. Secondary Schools (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990), pp. 159-182. Adam Gamoran, "Alternative Uses of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: Can We Bring High-Quality Instruction to Low-Ability Classrooms?"
strategic plan for differentiated instruction
is there a research base for differentiated instruction?
timeline for implementing direction instruction & the administrator's career path
teacher's role in differentiated instruction
differentiated instruction in middle school
differentiated instruction & the pre-test
differentiated instruction in Steve's town
follow-up on DI in his town from Steve
pre-tests & post-tests w/o formative assessment
differentiated instruction & executive function
flexible achievement grouping & accelerating average children
acceleration for average & slow learners
Tom Loveless on tracking research
flexible achievement grouping in Dan's school
Wayne Wickelgren on math talent & when to supplement
Wickelgren on math talent
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One of the schools we looked at for our son did this to, though they spread the groupings across two grades. That is, they assess the first and second graders as a single group, then break out that group into as many homogenous ability subgroups as they have 1st and 2nd grade teachers. They do the same thing with math. -- DougSundseth - 21 Apr 2006
This would work really well if the classes were scheduled with sufficient duplication so that a student and her parents could easily devise a schedule that looks like:
Was this a charter school? -- CatherineJohnson - 21 Apr 2006
Catherine, I don't understand why the title for this page says Catholic school. What I described was at our ordinary public school. -- DanK - 21 Apr 2006
Oops. I hadn't seen the update from Loveless. Nevermind. -- DanK - 21 Apr 2006
" ...how are they going to deal with her in second grade? The answer is that nobody is quite sure." This is the big question. Will the A,B,C, and D groups become de facto tracks? This isn't necessarily bad if the curriculum is the same. However, starting in first grade, it may be hard after a couple of years to change tracks unless they have specific methods to help kids cross the gaps. For four classes with four teachers, what if one track becomes becomes filled up too much? Someone might decide that they have to eliminate some students from group D. Four levels sounds like a bit too much. Two levels at each grade sounds like plenty. After that, they could jump up a grade level. Unfortunately, at our public schools, acceleration is not an option, even in the same classroom. -- SteveH - 21 Apr 2006
Bonnie grossen's article How should we group to achieve excellence with equity? is a good primer on ability grouping. -- KDeRosa - 21 Apr 2006
Wickelgren had a whole cool way of staggering math instruction...I'll have to find that & post it. -- CatherineJohnson - 21 Apr 2006
KELLER METHOD FOR K-5 Wonder if anyone's done it. -- CatherineJohnson - 21 Apr 2006
KDeRosa?, Thanks for the Grossen link. Ability grouping makes eminent sense but the opposition to it is ferocious. It's egalitarianism run amuck. Everybody loses under the current heterogeneous-mixing regime, but the dogma is deeply entrenched. See the opening lines of the article for a sense of the hostility to ability grouping: Ability grouping in America has become a loaded word. In response to inequities of the past associated with ability grouping, an emerging national agenda among nearly all reform constituencies is claiming that ability grouping is bad, it is racist, it must be eliminated (Oakes, 1985, 1990; Wheelock, 1992). Slavin (1991), for example, argues: "The burden of proof for the antidemocratic, antiegalitarian practice of ability grouping must be on those who would group, and no one who reads this literature could responsibly conclude that this requirement has been met." (p. 70). Hastings sees the equity issue in more absolute terms: "The answer to the debate on ability grouping is not to be found in new research. There exists a body of philosophic absolutes that should include this statement: The ability grouping of students for educational opportunities in a democratic society is ethically unacceptable" (Hastings, 1992, p. 14). From my experience teaching, I've come to the conclusion that a potentially more palatable alternative to despised ability grouping would be grouping by behavior. I was able to observe repeatedly how a minority to half the class is able to paralyze teaching for the other half that is willing to learn. This condition prevailed in urban classrooms full of disadvantaged students. -- CharlesH - 21 Apr 2006
I think a lot of the problem is how the bottom group is perceived and handled. I think we talked about this several months ago, but one of the best comments (probably Steve said it) was that the bottom group has to be viewed as the group that needs to catch up. The absolute greatest fear you have as the parent of a struggler is that the school will simply accept the situation. If the attitude is more about pushing them to catch up with their peers than I think parents, and even teachers, would be more accepting. I will never forget holding back tears as I realized my seemingly perfect son was going to have to go to a special ed preschool. The first meeting with the experts is an absolute killer as they carefully choose their words so as not to devastate you in one shot. But mostly, I will never forget the principal reassuring me with great confidence that their job was going to be to push hard to get him "school ready". She said, and I quote, that they were going to "bombard him with stimuli." It felt as though they were not going to accept the situation if there was any way possible. That is what the parent in that situation needs to know. The biggest fear you have for your slow learner is that he will never be expected to do any more. He will be stuck there forever. The label is on and he can never escape. -- SusanS - 22 Apr 2006
From Grossen's article: "Ability grouping in America has become a loaded word. In response to inequities of the past associated with ability grouping, an emerging national agenda among nearly all reform constituencies is claiming that ability grouping is bad, it is racist, it must be eliminated ..." High schools group by ability, but it's only racist for the lower grades? Lots of educational practices could be racist (like low expectations or assuming that child's education requires proper home support), but allowing kids to advance at their own educational pace is not one of them. Apparently this has to be done in a heterogeneous learning environment to pass the racist test. This won't fix the problem, but it will make some people feel good. -- SteveH - 22 Apr 2006
Everybody loses under the current heterogeneous-mixing regime, but the dogma is deeply entrenched. I agree. It's not just the fast learners who are hurt by the heterogeneous-mixing regime. It's everyone. At the same time, I understand perfectly well why the anti-tracking movement has prevailed. "He's a 3." That's Christopher's guidance counselor telling me, on the phone, a year and a half ago, what Christopher was. I'll never forget that! He's a 3. Direct quote. When I pointed out that Christopher had never scored anything less than a 4 on the state tests he said the state tests didn't matter - the first and last time I've heard that from anyone associated with the middle school. -- CatherineJohnson - 22 Apr 2006
hoo boy behavior grouping - there's a thought otoh, you could put all the wild characters together and hire a Marine to teach them it would work, too -- CatherineJohnson - 22 Apr 2006
the bottom group has to be viewed as the group that needs to catch up. The absolute greatest fear you have as the parent of a struggler is that the school will simply accept the situation I agree, but the problem doesn't just reside with the bottom group. Christopher was completely sc***** being put in the middle group. The middle group - this is Wickelgren's point - is the slow group for the rest of the world. But once you're in the middle group in Irvington, you're staying there. You are AVERAGE. -- CatherineJohnson - 22 Apr 2006
But mostly, I will never forget the principal reassuring me with great confidence that their job was going to be to push hard to get him "school ready". She said, and I quote, that they were going to "bombard him with stimuli." It felt as though they were not going to accept the situation if there was any way possible. That is what the parent in that situation needs to know. Definitely. Those preschool folks are the salt of the earth. They really are. -- CatherineJohnson - 22 Apr 2006
keywords: fluidachievementgrouping -- CatherineJohnson - 07 May 2006