Leveled classes OR mixed abilities?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by nstructor, May 23, 2019.

  1. nstructor

    nstructor Cohort

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    May 23, 2019

    For grade 6, which do you think is better-to have a low, medium, and high class, or have all mixed abilities?
     
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  3. Always__Learning

    Always__Learning Comrade

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    May 23, 2019

    Grade 6 is way too early to level classes.
     
  4. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 23, 2019

    Mixed ability, generally. If there's a large number of students who could do an accelerated curriculum it might be good to offer one more advanced section, but only if the remaining classes could still be well mixed.
     
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  5. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I’m a fan of mixed ability until high school. I’ve taught mixed and leveled classes. Mixed is way easier. Leveled classes (no matter what level) have been my biggest management challenges. The low classes never get to see any high-quality work, and the high classes can feel like they are somehow superior. I don’t, however, want a mix like I had a few times . . . half GT and half SED. That was too far apart.
     
  6. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    May 25, 2019

    Mixed ability always.
     
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  7. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    May 25, 2019

    I am a huge proponent of ability grouping and prefer that over mixed grouping.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 25, 2019

    Have you taught both high groups and low groups?
     
  9. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Yes, but no lower than middle school. I have found that ability grouping is extremely effective when done right; that is, once a student demonstrates mastery they can move up to the more advanced classes.
     
  10. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 25, 2019

    But you're describing a mastery system, not ability grouping.
     
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  11. Always__Learning

    Always__Learning Comrade

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    Levelling in Grade 6 would be a huge equity issue.
     
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  12. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I agree grade six is too young. Not until high school is there a solidly clear understanding of a student's general learning/performance ability.
     
  13. nstructor

    nstructor Cohort

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    May 25, 2019

    Could you explain why you feel this way and give an example of how it has benefited your students? Thank you!
     
  14. Teacher234

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    May 26, 2019

    I would absolutely go with mixed ability. While the planning and no need for differentiation makes a teachers job a little easier, mixed ability classes are a lot more exciting and fun to teach (in my opinion). Consider the following.....
    Even though an "advanced" group is perceived to be advanced, there will still be some students who need additional assistance with the content and work habits. The "Advanced" group is certainly the laziest group, in most cases. For the "advanced" group, the teacher would expect the students to do advanced work and that is it. Here is a problem, the advanced assignments are too difficult for some students. Differentiation allows for all students to learn their way. For students who are struggling, provide those students with small-group instruction and reinforcement worksheets. For students who are deemed advanced, provide them with a challenge/Enrichment task.
    Having a particular group in a particular class will not necessarily help those students because of the, essentially, "One Way" teaching. With "One Way" teaching, it does not necessarily allow higher level students to develop a full understanding or allow lower level students to expand their understanding. Even in my class where my students are lower level (I plan modified instruction), I have students that require an more challenging task. For example, I have a fourth grader learning on a third grade guided reading level (all of my 4th graders are in this boat). However, this fourth grader may need to read at a fourth grade GR level (setting this up in the grade book will be a nightmare.)
    When in doubt, differentiation is better and more efficient. It benefits all of the students more often than not.
     
  15. CherryOak

    CherryOak Companion

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    May 26, 2019

    I currently have an range from E to Z++ and how to subtract to coefficients in my fifth grade room with 27 students. So..... I would never say it in person, but, yea, this is freaking hard. I secretly fantasize about tracking....... with guilt. I know I shouldn't and why, but I do.
     
  16. 2ndTimeAround

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    May 26, 2019

    I hate the term leveling and prefer ability grouping. I am a big proponent of ability grouping and wish it was done exclusively at my school. With mixing the lower students get almost all of the attention. Either due to ability or behavior.
     
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  17. TrademarkTer

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    May 26, 2019

    I thought you taught high school.
     
  18. TrademarkTer

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    May 26, 2019

    I say hold off on the rat race of ability grouping until high school.
     
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  19. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    May 26, 2019

    I think mixed grouping is more appropriate for elementary (in most cases) and ability grouping is more appropriate for middle and high school.

    All through my upbringing, I was placed by ability, as were my peers, and the vast majority of us thrived because of it. For example, when we started elementary we all took standardized state tests and IQ tests to determine placement. As a result of my testing, I was put into the 5th-grade reading class in the 2nd grade and the sixth-grade reading class (but with different teachers and newer curricula) for 3rd-5th grades as that was the highest I could go. I was placed in 5th-grade math in the 2nd grade and took several grade levels higher every year thereafter. To demonstrate, I took Advanced Pre-algebra in 5th, Algebra 1 Honors in 6th, Honors Geometry in 7th, Algebra 2 Honors and Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry in 8th, Precalculus Honors and AP Stats in 9th, AP Calculus AB in 10th, AP Calculus BC in 11th, and Linear Algebra and Differential Equations at the local community college in 12th via my high school’s dual enrollment program. For every math test I’ve ever taken (state administered or otherwise), I’ve scored in the 99th percentile for math, so why should I have been put in a class more “age-appropriate” to “learn” material I already knew and found incredibly easy and mundane? That’s where most of my counselors said I should be placed and luckily my principals and parents put their foot down.

    It’s not always about the lower performers. All learners need to be considered and put into environments where all of their learning can be maximized.

    In my case, I always was placed in older age groups and it never bothered me. Neither did it for my more advanced peers, too. We absolutely hated being placed with other kids our age because we felt like we were learning our ABC’s for an hour each block and we often had to carry and tutor the lower and medium performers. It wasn’t fair to us and we were not being challenged, which is why we asked to be and were subsequently placed into much higher grade levels.
     
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  20. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 26, 2019

    I do agree ability grouping is ideal for high school as that is arguably an advanced level of education where students, to oversimplify things, are learning at their own will, rather than being taught how to learn. Many systems have a track in place at this time.

    But elementary, and 6th grade, things aren't so cut and dry.

    I'd add that ideally in lower grades even with mixed ability, differentiation is still preferred so kids aren't carrying/being carried.
     
  21. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 26, 2019

    You are very lucky that this was an option for you. I think this is far more effective than leveling in a single grade - say, having 3 third grade classes, and making a separate class of all the high kids, all the medium kids, and all the low kids. I was also a "high" kid and would have really liked having the opportunity to do what you did. Instead, I had teachers who gave me workbooks one or two grade levels ahead and occasionally taught groups of lower level kids in elementary school. It was fine, but I always appreciated teachers who went out of their way to challenge my abilities.

    The main reason I'm against leveling in a single grade is that I think it's a huge disservice to the low kids to put them all together. It makes for a really difficult class behaviorally and academically for the teacher assigned to that group as well. If a whole school is committed to letting students move up or down groups as needed, I think that would be a great model. In fact, it would be my preferred model.
     
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