Classrooms split based on ability?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by newkgteacher, May 25, 2015.

  1. newkgteacher

    newkgteacher Rookie

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    May 25, 2015

    Hello,

    I am teaching at an international school where every student is an English Language Learner. We currently have one class per grade level, but our school is growing fast and next year the plan is to have two classes per elementary grade level. The school is seriously considering assigning students to one of the two classes based solely on their WIDA scores.

    I am personally against this because of the following reasons:

    1. Advanced students can help lower level students learn.
    2. Students will quickly identify which classes are the "smart" ones and which ones are the "dumb" ones.
    3. Expectations of the teacher will vary based on what class they get i.e. I have the slow class, so we can't expect much from them.

    I think the school is going this route because this year, we accepted all students who applied and placed them in classrooms, regardless of ability and time. Our school year ends in three weeks and I got a new student two weeks ago. So, parents complained because they believe that these students are slowing down the progress of their own children.

    I believe classes should be assigned either randomly or alphabetically.

    However, I am posting this here to 1. get your opinion and 2. if you agree with me, to hopefully give me some ideas on how to change the mind of the school.

    Thank you in advance.
     
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  3. AdamnJakesMommy

    AdamnJakesMommy Habitué

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    May 25, 2015

    I agree with you. I have a high math and a low math, I really could've used strong students in my lower math class this year. It's OVERWHELMING to have 30 kids with their hands raised in one class (ranging from completely lost to I just want to make sure I'm doing this right), and none in the other. It would've been great to have a collaborative environment in both classes where peers could help each other while I circulate and work with kids who are just so lost they need a small group or 1:1 session. The ONLY benefit to tiered abilities is it makes differentiation easier on the teacher.
     
  4. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    May 26, 2015

    I agree with you. It's also not fair to the teacher who has the lower class because they will need to work harder to get their students to the same level as the other class. I've heard of teachers dividing up groups based on their style of learning: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual, but that's the only kind of grouping I would support.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 26, 2015

    I support ability groupings.
     
  6. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    May 26, 2015

    I'm not in favor of ability grouping in the primary grades, unless the class with the lower learners has far fewer students or at least an aide/para helping out. My opinion would likely change to support ability grouping the older the students get, particularly in high school.

    No advice on how to change the mind of the school. I would probably just create a list of all the concerns you have with it, and then put those concerns in the form of a question for your administrators. Ask them how the teacher with the lower level students is expected to handle such a challenge.
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 26, 2015

    I have mixed feelings on the matter. I think many types of learning are great for a mixed bag of learners, but there is something to be said to let a student get an education on his own level.
     
  8. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    May 26, 2015

    The way our school handles placement (granted, a much larger school - this year had five-class grades for a couple different grades), is by having each teacher fill out a form that shares their academic level, behavior level, boy/girl, whether they are "time consuming" (i.e. need a bunch of individualized support academically or behaviorally), whether they receive any services of any sort, etc...

    Then we get together as a grade level and take our current kids and spread them among next year's teachers equally-ish. After doing it initially, we look back to try to even out the academic levels (same number of "above standard" across grade levels about...etc...), and behavioral levels, same number of boys/girls, so that each teacher has about the same amount of differentiation to do, has about the same amount of behavior issues to deal with, meetings, etc...

    I agree with many of the above comments about ability grouping: I think there's definitely times to do it, so long as you are flexible with those groupings, but it can also hamper the learning environment in many ways.

    As for approaching the school about it, the best advice would be to find some very specific examples or research and approach the school with that objective information as to why you believe what you do -- don't go in with any of our thoughts, but rather share your beliefs and make sure you can some how back them up.
     
  9. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 26, 2015

    I agree. I do actually like ability grouping, but I think that the lower classes definitely need more support or lower numbers.

    I am at a school that ability groups. The low kids tend to have behavior problems.
     
  10. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    May 26, 2015

    Teachers at our school form classes much like mathmagic described - a balance of gender, level, behaviors, etc.

    I don't really know if ability grouping with only 2 classes will do much good. We have 2 classes per grade at my school. What you would end up with is a class with a cluster of high kids and a class with a cluster of low kids...and then a bunch of kids in the middle. I don't like what ability grouping with only 2 classes does for the middle kids. Some of those kids really need the examples of the high kids.

    Other things:
    -The low class will have more behavior problems, almost guaranteed.

    - Just because a student is high in one subject doesn't mean they are in another, and same for low. I have students who are high in reading but low in math. Do they get grouped with the low group because of math, and then become bored during reading? Do they get grouped with the high group because of reading, and then struggle through math?

    - Ability grouping, especially with only 2 classes, makes the assumption that kids will never move. What about those middle kids? I'm sure everyone has taught a midrange kid who grew leaps and bounds during the year, perhaps moving up into the highest group in the class. This especially happens in primary. So now that kid is stuck in the lower class?

    - I don't believe test scores are a great basis for ALL of this. With incoming kinder, that's all you have to go on.

    -I see you teach kinder. Ability grouping kids in kinder REALLY bugs me. I don't know what your student population is like, but here that would end up being a class of haves (probably more money, preschool, lots of at home support, etc) and have nots.

    - Will the kids be tested each year and given the opportunity to move?

    - With only 2 classes, EVERYONE will know which class is which. How demoralizing for the lower class. How ego-boosting for the higher class. Both are equally detrimental, I think. This isn't secondary - kids being in honors and AP classes, etc. These are elementary kids.
     
  11. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    May 26, 2015

    Ability groupings sounds like a good idea, but the research shows this hasn't worked very well. The best success for ability groupings have been with high schools and middle schools and even then the research isn't all positive. I see you teach Kindergarten. I don't think this is a good age for ability grouping for many reasons. If you want to accelerate students, then I think there could be some good center activities that allow for this kind of acceleration without ability grouping.
     
  12. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 26, 2015

    Do you have any research to share? I would be interested in reading it.
     
  13. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    May 27, 2015

    Are they being split by their ability, or by their language proficiency? I would think that is actually two very different things. If it's language proficiency, then you will still have students with different ability levels, but it might be easier for the teacher to provide the appropriate level of language support? So, you'll still have students with all levels of math skills in both classes, for example.
     
  14. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 27, 2015

    I would agree with this. The macro studies by Marzano show that the low group learns much less when ability grouped and the high show no benefit. Only the middle group show some benefit, but it's weak. It's not worth causing harm to the lowest kids.
     
  15. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    One of the most comprehensive studies looked at 138 different things that might effect student performance in school. (if you are wondering what was last, #137 was watching large amounts of TV and #138 was frequently changing schools. Ability grouping was #121 which puts it solidly in the bottom quarter. The studies come from the book Visible Learning by John Hattie which researched around 1 million students in many different areas. The study showed that no group really benefits much from grouping as all 3 groups the high, middle, and low didn't fare well. The high students though were harmed the least by ability grouping.

    It was noted that ability grouping "limits students' schooling opportunities, achievements, and life chances." This quote was mostly referring to the effect on the lower achieving students. There are a few more pages on it, if you ever care to read more on it.
     
  16. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    May 27, 2015

    I firmly believe in this method of student distribution.

    As a teacher, this is the way students were placed in my room. As an administrator, I continue to follow this practice.
     
  17. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    May 27, 2015

    Thank you!
     
  18. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    May 27, 2015

    This is so important for positive school climate. When one teacher gets all the IEP kids (for example), it creates a bitter situation.
     
  19. hatima

    hatima Devotee

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    May 28, 2015

    The second objection "smart" vs. "Dumb" occurs in mixed ability classes too. I have seen it based on academics and English Language skills.

    Looking at WIDA levels I can see how having a two way split on levels may be helpful for kids and teachers.

    I do not support the "higher"students as teachers. These students, like the lower ones and middle ones, should be taught at the appropriate level to help them expand. I was middle to high compared to my peers (which was still low looking at 'averages'). I stuggled with math and spelling. My teachers ofter would not help me and expexted me to help others with the same areas i was stuggling understanding. This was 20+ years ago. However, I haven't seen much of a change.
     
  20. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 28, 2015

    We also do the card thing at our school. I can't imagine any other way. Keep the classes as balanced as possible, try to break up "problem" groups (I know, and mostly agree with, the philosophy that kids need to learn to work out differences, but sometimes there is just some really ugly, truly awful drama).

    I think teaching kids at their own levels (be that high, medium, or low) will occur in any decent classroom.
     

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