Cluster Grouping?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by a_apple_z_zebra, Apr 28, 2012.

  1. a_apple_z_zebra

    a_apple_z_zebra Rookie

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    Apr 28, 2012

    (If I'm reiterating a previous post, please feel free to let me know...)

    My school district is currently piloting several interventions meant to target the gifted and talented population, and cluster grouping may be implemented at my school, and specifically at my grade level.

    If you're not sure what cluster grouping is, it's heterogeneous grouping, where students at a variety of performance levels are within a classroom, but all of the gifted/talented students within each grade level are "clustered" together in one class (as are non-gifted students with IEP's, who are separated in another classroom). High-average, average, and low-average performing students are divided up equally in all sections within a grade level, but high-average students are not in the same class as the gifted/talented cluster. :huh: <--Sorry if that's a little difficult to understand. It's early here...

    Anyways, is there anybody out there who has tried this grouping method? How feasible was it to meet the needs of everyone in the "gifted" class (considering that there are non-gifted students in those classes too)? Did you use flexible grouping in conjunction with cluster grouping? If so, were parents supportive of placements of their children? Any opinions on this topic would be SUPER DUPER useful!

    Thank You!:thanks:

    :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

    (Again, if this topic appears somewhere else, please feel free to point me in the right direction...:eek: )
     
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  3. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Apr 28, 2012

    My school used to do that kind of grouping. This year I began my year with three groups in my class, gifted, SPED, and gen ed. After the first quarter we switched to self contained gifted because we realized that the needs of the gifted children could not be met adequately with so many low achieving children in the class. The parents were in favor of the separate gifted class. I'm not completely in favor of it because it could lead to feelings of elitism among the children. Fortunately, the teacher they chose to lead this class has done a wonderful job this year and her class has been very successful.
    Next year the school will have self contained gifted for all grade levels.
     
  4. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    We have one class for GT kids on each grade level; if that class doesn't fill up, other students are placed in there and we call it a split. However, the kids we place in there are usually high achievers (although even with the GT kids, just because they are GT doesn't necessarily mean they are advanced, I have a whole spectrum of abilities in my class).

    I am a big advocate of ensuring GT kids are getting the challenge that they need-I think that's more likely to happen when they are grouped together. Especially if you have a teacher with that group who understands their needs.
     
  5. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    Our classes are like that, but the gifted kids get pulled out for reading and math. They only have science and social studies together. That is actually what I teach (we are departmentalized).
    It is generally not a problem. When we use labs and groups, I evenly split up the kids and it actually helps the lower ones. Last year we homogeneously groups the kids, and the 'low' class did not do well at all.
     
  6. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Apr 28, 2012

    In my school, we have one team of teachers who splits the GT students out for every subject from the rest of the students on the team. Another team splits out the GT students for math and ELA and mixes up all the students for all other classes. Both ways are working but each team feels that their way works best for them.
     
  7. a_apple_z_zebra

    a_apple_z_zebra Rookie

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    Swansong - I'm glad it has worked out well at your school. The teachers I've spoken to are in favor of more homogeneous grouping, but allowing flexibility so that students can be moved if necessary.

    KinderCowGirl - It's interesting that the G/T students and high achievers are in the same class. Do you find that the high achievers (but not labeled as G/T) participate as fully in classroom activities? I'm coming from a purely theoretical standpoint (from coursework I've completed on Gifted/Talented education), and I've been told over and over again that high achieving-but-not-gifted students "shine" when they are removed from their G/T peers.

    Giraffe - Your post gets me thinking about flexible grouping. I think it would be so powerful to trade students with other teachers for those core subjects, like ELA and Math, so teachers can really hone in on individual needs and move everyone forward!

    mopar - I agree--we all need to find what works best for us.

    Super ideas - thanks for the info!
     
  8. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I HATE CLUSTERING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry to shout it out, but I felt it was necessary. ;)

    Reasons I (and every other teacher in my district) hate clustering:
    -The teachers with the low class generally have more behavior problems to deal with. Not always, but most of the time. They also have more meetings, paperwork, and IEP's. I have the low group this year, and, while I LOVE the kids, I hate the extra work that goes with this population. Three of my students have qualified for SPED this year, and 3 more are being evaluated. That is a huge amount of work on my end. The teacher nextdoor to me has the "average" group and she has not had ANY extra work like this for her class. I have to come in early, stay late, and my prep time is often filled with meetings (school social worker, school psychologist, school counselor, Title 1 teacher, lit specialist, parents, SPED teachers, the principal, etc.).

    -Our district looks at academics and not behavior issues. They take behaviors into consideration somewhat, but not as much as they should. For example, if you know two kids should absolutely not be together, it doesn't matter. If they fit together cluster-wise, they will be together.

    -They do not consider teacher personality. For example, if a teacher at your school is known as being very strict (almost mean), and you know of a little sweetheart who really struggles with self-esteem issues, you cannot recommend to have her placed in with the teacher who is more nurturing. If that's where she fits cluster-wise, that's where she goes.

    -I don't know that clustering actually makes less of a learning range in the classroom for the teacher. For example, while I have the "low" population, I have about 6 really really low kids, 4 pretty high kids (2 of which are gifted), and the rest are average. At the beginning of the year, I had one student score a 150 on the MAP test, and another scored a 211. I had a level D reader, and a level O reader. I understand that clustering doesn't mean one teacher has the lowest 23 kids, another has the highest 23 kids, etc. There needs to be a mix. However, I have such a huge range in my classroom.

    We have been clustering for 4 years now, and I honestly have yet to meet one teacher in my district who likes it.

    The positive things about clustering:
    -Scheduling the G/T pull-out
    -Scheduling speech
    -Scheduling Title 1 pull-out
    -Scheduling SPED students

    If all of the Title 1 kiddos are split up between two classes, and not five, it is much easier to schedule their intervention time. So, I do agree with grouping some children together for scheduling purposes, but I do not think this should be the main reason students are placed into certain classrooms.
     
  9. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I've been in a lot of schools that cluster in the past, and I think it was a good thing. My current school is adamantly against it. It's so much easier to differentiate for the kids and I think the gen ed teachers end up doing it more when they don't have 15 levels in the same class where it seems overwhelming and they just give up. When you know you just have to differentiate for higher or lower, it's a lot less work.

    I also find that really high and GT kids end up getting forgotten in a non-grouped classroom a lot of the time. I think a teacher's natural instinct is to spend more time with the struggling students and to put all of their efforts into getting them up to grade level rather than challenging the gifted students since they "don't have to worry about them." I think things like merit pay and the testing culture we have right now really feed into that- you have your "kids you don't even have to worry about" (aka will pass the test no matter what), kids that just need regular instruction, and kids we have to put every resource we have into getting them to pass the test.

    From a sped perspective, my district is really, really pushing push-in or full inclusion classes where the sped teacher would go into the classroom rather than pulling the kids out. If the kids aren't clustered in some way, this is downright impossible. We have 2 classes per grade level with 1 grade level having 3 classes. I am the only sped teacher for k-5. They have purposefully split up my kids so that they're all in different classes for each grade level. That gives me 13 different classrooms to work with. All grade levels do reading at the same time. That means with the current non-cluster system, I'd literally make it to a reading class with my students once every 2.5 weeks! Even in schools with more sped teachers where they work with fewer grade levels, splitting kids between classes is still hard if you want the instruction to be push-in rather than pull-out (which I find most places do). If you cluster the kids, the sped teacher can actually spend a significant amount of time in that one classroom. So yes, one gen ed teacher ends up with all of the "low" kids, but they also have two teachers in there for a lot of the time. Again, coming from a sped perspective, this also cuts down on the likelihood that the sped teacher ends up being treated like a TA (since they have more time in the room and are there every day for certain lessons), assuming the gen ed teacher is willing to work with them. My dad's school did this for a couple of years and loved it. Their "high" kids were able to read books years above the grade level in their normal classes. He (as the sped teacher) got to spend the entire day in one classroom. He found a teacher that really liked the team-teach approach and she requested to have the "low" kids each year so that they could teach the class together. However, eventually they were forced to stop doing it because it "looked bad" to have all of the sped kids and all of the gt kids in one class. They said it wasn't really "inclusion" if the class was made up mostly of sped kids. When they went back to their original model, he was still expected to do push-in instruction, but had to go back to the role of basically being a TA because he wasn't in each classroom for long enough.
     
  10. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Apr 28, 2012

    We did this and kind of still do. Honestly, the only major problem is that it is unreliable in early grades. A lot of kids are not identified in kindergarten and so then it ends up with different kids in each class anyway and then some more kids are not identified in first grade and so on.

    As for Driving , our GT kids have just as many behavior problems as any other group and I suspect the problem related to the number of classes in each grade. We have 6, so plenty of room to distribute the ability levels of non-GT kids and even out the behavior issues.
     
  11. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Not necessarily, though. Your SPED population isn't necessarily your low population, and that is where the problem lies. In my district, the low kids actually are not clustered with the SPED kids, unless the SPED kids are your really low kids. So, the teacher with the SPED kids may have a lot of support, while the teacher with the low kids has none.

    In my class, for example, I began the year with two students in SPED: one who received some pull-out, but no in-class support, and one who is actually gifted. Since having 3 more students qualify for services, the only extra support I receive in the classroom is for 20 minutes during math instruction. My students in SPED are pulled for 30 minutes of reading intervention in the morning, and 30 minutes of math intervention in the afternoon. That's it.

    In a dream world, the teacher with the "low kids" would have an extra set of hands in the room, but often times she doesn't.
     
  12. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    That's nice that you're able to spread out the behaviors. It seems as though many of the behavior issues end up in one classroom, and we just have to let it be. :( And I do realize that not all of your low kids are behavior issues, and that not all of your behavior issues are your lower kids. That is definitely not true! However, I do know that my class is, overall, very low, and they are also the biggest handful. And this is not just coming from me...Other teachers who take my class are surprised at the combination of students.

    I do love them, though! And it is really nice to hear from other teachers how far they have come this year. :)

    On a side note, we do not notify parents of the placement of their child, other than teacher name. Parents have caught on, and they think there is a "high" class and a "low" class. They do not understand that there are "high average" students in with the "low" students, so they get pretty fired up once they figure out which cluster their child is in. I just wish administration would come clean about the process, because teachers are supposed to keep it a secret. It's really frustrating for us.
     
  13. a_apple_z_zebra

    a_apple_z_zebra Rookie

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    I'm a little confused. Does your school use cluster grouping, or homogeneous grouping? It sounds like homogeneous grouping, but later in your post you say you have a mix of performance levels. The way it sounds to me is the teachers who do no have the G/T cluster in their room have the rest of the students split evenly in their rooms.
     
  14. KinderCowgirl

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    That has totally been my experience. I also see the opposite-I see kids identified through the testing early on, but don't really see GT abilities in them (and I'm not talking about academics-the thinking abilities, creativity, etc).

    I can also personally vouch for the behavior issues still existing. Believe me!

    apple-to answer your question, yes, the high achievers do participate. They may not be as creative, but definitely benefit from the academic challenge part of it.

    Waterfall-I completely agreee with your statements about GT kids in regular classrooms as well. I can't tell you how many meetings I've attended where teachers tell me their differentiation for those kids is to help the other kids. :mad: I know there are some in heterogenous classrooms who do this well-but I don't think it's the norm.
     
  15. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    We do cluster grouping. We label the kids as one of the following:
    -Low
    -Low-average
    -Average
    -High-average
    -Average

    Then, there is a specific formula for placing the kids. A teacher with the "low" class will have low, average, and high-average students. A teacher with the "high" class will have high, average, and low-average students. I can't remember the specifics of every group, because they are all split up differently.

    At my old school, we only had 3 teachers at each grade level, so there was a low, average, and high class. At my new school, we have 5 teachers at each grade level. I am just learning about the cluster grouping process when there are more than 3 teachers, but I believe there will be 2 low classrooms, 1 high classroom, and 2 average classrooms. We do not have a class with all GT students, all low students, etc. All classrooms have a mix of performance levels.
     
  16. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I'm with DrivingPigeon,

    Research is now showing that the low kids learn much less when grouped together, and the high kids don't get a big push from it either.

    Parents of high kids tend to love ability grouping, but they shouldn't run the school (or your class).

    High ability students do have special needs, and general education teachers need to receive training on how to differentiate without ability grouping.




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  17. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Apr 28, 2012

    So, Tyler B.: you'd rather see no GATE classes?
     
  18. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    After reading your post about you do the groups, I think we're talking about two different things. It sounds like you still have a mix of different ability groups in each class. When I think "clustering" I'm talking about having all of the sped kids in one class and all of the g/t kids in one class. Occasionally, kids fall into both categories, but that's very rare. Most schools in my district only have one or two (if they have any) kids that fall into that category. In my district, a student must be performing below the 12th percentile to qualify for sped, so it is of course the "low" kids that are identified. If a regular ed kid is performing below that level, we would move to refer them to sped. In extreme cases we can look at adhd for IEPs, but we would still have to prove an academic need for the IEP, meaning they'd still have to be classified as a "low" kid. The school I student taught at clustered their sped kids and put them all in one room. I did regular ed and special ed student teaching, so I started as the regular teacher in the room and then moved to the role of the sped teacher. There were 13 identified students in the room and 12 regular ed kids. Since that was the only classroom the special ed teacher had to work with, she was there almost all day with the exception of the short time she pulled the kids out.

    The services your students are getting are actually pretty good- I don't have that much time to spend with my students! I see my reading kids for 30 minutes four days a week and my math kids for 20-25 minutes three days a week. Since I have kids in 13 different classrooms as I described, doing any push-in at all is impossible. The 5th day of the week I do all of my progress monitoring in the morning and all of my meetings in the afternoon. This is with taking no lunch some days, only taking 3 planning periods a week when regular ed teachers have 7, etc. so I am seeing them the absolute most that I can. We are a k-8 and in our middle school the kids only get services twice a week.
     
  19. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Actually there is an abundance of research to support grouping the advanced kids together. Grouping low students only doesn't work well according to the research, because often times the teacher has lower expectations of the group and students don't grow as much as they do when mixed with other abilities.

    I'm not sure where the parent comment comes from. Parents want to make sure their kids are getting the challenge that they need. Some parents see the GT label as a badge of honor, but most are really just advocating for their kids. I've seen mixed classes where the teacher meets with their low group for reading every single day and the advanced kids' small group instruction is-go read a book. Even with education, not all teachers really understand GT kids.
     
  20. storyh

    storyh Companion

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    I suspect we do some sort of cluster grouping because we have to turn in our student's names at the end of the year and identify them as high, average, or low. I have been the GATE teacher for two years and personally I wish we could arrange our pull-out differently or go a different direction altogether.
     
  21. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    My goodness-13 different classrooms?!! How can you find time to meet with all of them? The SPED teacher who works with my students has students in 3 different classrooms. She works with 2 very high-needs kindergarten students, 5 students in my classroom, and 3 from another 2nd grade classroom. I think she does have a few other kindergartners that she works with on a minimal basis, too. She does a lot of classroom support in the other two classrooms, but does not have time to do so in my classroom, since most of my students just qualified for services, and her schedule was pretty tight.
     
  22. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I just read this article:
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...wtSMDw&usg=AFQjCNGrjMWlvke5t_mjenVUHJMOghMC5w

    I was surprised that everyone kept referring to clustering as something that gifted students highly benefit from. When I googled "cluster grouping" almost all of the results referred to it as a way to organize classes for gifted students to learn more effectively.

    I find this very surprising, because this does not seem like the purpose of cluster grouping at my school. Administrators do speak about the benefit of it for the GT population, but they definitely do not put and emphasis on this aspect of clustering.
     
  23. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Marzano's meta analysis of the literature shows that high students do not really benefit from homogeneous grouping. Furthermore, researchers show that it's actually harmful to low students.

    http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/pospaper_ag.aspx


    The parent comment comes from experience. I was a teacher for the gifted in my state, and I recognize these students have special needs that must be addressed by their general ed teachers. Putting them all together is not the answer. Bowing to parental pressure is not honorable.

    Schools should not be grouping students by ability in elementary school. High math classes in middle and high school should be open to any who can pass an entrance exam.





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  24. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    One of the many reasons I'm thrilled to be teaching gen ed next year:D
     
  25. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Sounds like you may be in same district I am in. County even offered to pay for classes of teachers who want to get gifted endorsement.

    I really haven't liked the idea of it until I read this post. I can certainly see some pros and cons.
     
  26. a_apple_z_zebra

    a_apple_z_zebra Rookie

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    I have also seen research to support grouping G/T students together, as well as research supporting the need for teachers to be trained in best practices for whatever level they teach. This goes for low achieving students' teachers too.
     
  27. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    That article says "Research has demonstrated that the use of whole class ability grouping disproportionately impacts minority students, economically disadvantaged students, and students with lower ability"-it doesn't say it negatively effects GT kids (not that I can find anyway, it is early;)). I agreed in my previous comment that is harmful to low students because of the lower expectations (but that's not what the OP is talking about doing). I think tracking and clustering are different animals. Tracking usually refers to simply using ability to separate the kids. GT students are not always the advanced students-but they do learn differently that other kids. I did a lot research on this because our district was considering going to pull-outs for the GT kids and I wanted to have ammunition to fight that.

    We're not at all doing it to bow to parental pressure-but because it's the best method for us to differentiate for these kids. I have a whole separate GT curriculum that I have to implement for them in addition to the regular curriculum-it's much easier to do that with everyone instead of singling out some of the kids to do different activities for.
     
  28. a_apple_z_zebra

    a_apple_z_zebra Rookie

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    It sounds like you all have views about a variety of grouping strategies. It is interesting to read what everyone has to say.

    It sounds like you've had some experience with G/T curricula. I'm curious what types of additional skills and content you teach to your G/T students.
     
  29. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I didn't mean to imply you are doing this to please parents. As a former GT teacher, I bristle when agressive parents push to have their advantaged children get more resources at the cost of less advantaged students. You didn't say this was happening, it was just a knee-jerk reaction on my part.




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  30. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    If it makes you feel any better, my school is 95% free/reduced lunch, 1/4 of my class is ESL and over 3/4 are considered at-risk. So I feel like we are actually giving the "disadvantaged" students a leg up.

    apple-I pm'd you my blog. I hope that helps give you some idea of what we do! ;)
     

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