Does Grouping Students for Reading Cause More Harm than Good?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Tyler B., Dec 10, 2014.

  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I was at a meeting last week where some teachers from a very low SES school talked about their reading program. They give a placement test then divide up the school's students by their scores. Students might go to different rooms for reading, writing and math.

    It blew my mind. Our school avoids anything like this. We use thematic teaching for literacy so the reading/writing lessons are linked. Our test scores are usually in the top 20% of district schools. Our principal keeps peppering us with articles supporting whole-class teaching.

    I wondered what other teachers are doing and how they feel about ability grouping.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    It blew your mind? Ability groupings are very common.
     
  4. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I don't teach ELEM or reading, but I wish I could ability group my HS History classes based on reading level. All of my classes are a mix of grades 9 to 12 with kids in AP English sitting next to kids with IEPs. This can be very frustrating to say the least.
     
  5. bekkilyn

    bekkilyn Rookie

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    In the core classes I took last year for my MAT, they really emphasized whole class teaching and seemed to consider ability grouping as discriminatory. I suppose it may have been put in the same category as "tracking".

    Personally, I'm just keeping an open mind on the topic since I'm not convinced it's an either-or issue.
     
  6. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    If we don't agree with ability-grouping, then we may as well put all kids in mixed classes regardless of age, grade level, or ability. Isn't that how the one-room school houses ran back in the day?

    I think that some form of ability grouping needs to be done, usually by age/grade level. Beyond that, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. In mixed classrooms, the smarter kids are always volunteering, and the slow kids may be left behind, or the smart kids could become mentors to the slow kids and help them catch up. In ability groupings, the smart kids can progress even further based on their understanding of the material, and slower kids can get additional support.

    One kind of grouping that I have seen and liked was to group students based on their learning style. Kinesthetic kids went to the teacher that was active and used manipulatives, visual students went to the teacher who used slides often, and audio learners went to the teacher who preferred to lecture.
     
  7. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Conceptually, kids there are upper and lower limits to what kids can be taught based on their current skill level. I would support maximum diversity and minimum subgrouping while still keeping kids in instruction that they can access.

    My experience has been that there is a value of inclusion that doesn't always match best practice. We want all kids to be included and treated equally, but sometimes "same" doesn't mean "equal."

    Consider the example of a 4th grader reading on a 1st grade level. It wouldn't make sense to provide her with 4th grade-level instruction because that would likely be too difficult. In order to best organize instruction, we would provide instruction to smaller groups of students (or individuals) who would most benefit from that instruction.

    I think it's also helpful to keep in mind the difference between tracking students for a whole day vs specific elements of instruction. Reading groups, for example, is a smaller example of skill groups/tracking. That's probably more helpful than, say, having a 3rd grader attend a separate class for an entire day based on just reading skills.

    Also, the idea of fluidity is important - putting a child in a skill group that never changes isn't helpful, while skill grouping that is constantly shifting based on demonstrated need makes more sense.
     
  8. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I teach gifted kiddos. My third graders learn far more in my room than they would in a mixed-ability classroom, and I am able to expose them to opportunities that they would never receive in third grade if they were not in my classroom.
     
  9. showmelady

    showmelady Companion

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    I think grouping is a good idea, for a couple of reasons. First, it allows those students who are struggling to get extra help in smaller groups than a full class. Second, it offers those students who are reading at and above grade level to advance and not get bored. I (from personal experience) found that if one reads well above level it is hard to stay with a group that needs more help.

    Why would it be bad for students to be grouped? I think that if the students are just kept together in the classroom eventually the teachers tend to always call on those who read faster, and give them more attention. That is really not helpful to those who really NEED the help.
     
  10. Pashtun

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    I believe there is research that supports these kids being grouped for social reasons as well.
     
  11. Backroads

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    I might have to look into these whole-class instruction articles if that's the way the pendulum is now swinging. My college instruction was bigbigbig on small group instruction... and I rather agree.

    Now, it sounds nice to give the expectation "you can do it!" in the whole-class level, but I don't know if it's realistic.
     
  12. a2z

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    I don't understand the logic behind this producing smaller groups. Most times, they just assess the students and divide the students into classes based on how many teachers they have. So, you have 4 teachers with 25 kids each, after ability grouping for reading you still have classes around 25 kids. It is just that the spread in skills is smaller.

    I can see how it could be better if your divided by lacking skill in early grades. For example, divide based on who needs decoding work compared to those who are reading words but who lack comprehension. Then instruction can be more tailored to the needs. Just by grouping by reading level won't do a whole lot to increase the skills of all if the group is just as large as a regular classroom.
     
  13. KinderCowgirl

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    This is my experience in Kinder as well. Quite often people don't know what to do with the advanced readers in particular. They are told to go read a book independently or help their friends who are struggling. I know in my class they are all being challenged appropriately.

    My only problem with it in the elementary grades is that it has to be very flexible and kids have to be assessed often because they can make great gains in just a few months time and then be stuck in the wrong "group" for the rest of the year.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

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    As a parent and a teacher I am a huge fan of ability grouping. I do see how grouping lower students with each other at the high school level does negatively impact some of them. They don't witness what advanced learners are doing, how hard they work, etc. So while competition fuels the higher learners, collective apathy stagnates the lower ones. But that reason alone isn't good enough to hold average/high learners back while the lower ones need extra help. Nor is it good enough to prevent the slower students from getting the extra help they need.

    We have a teacher at my school that is awesome with the slower students. The average students that are placed in his room have told me they want to hang themselves after a day in his room.
     
  15. FourSquare

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    :yeahthat:

    Generally....this is my stance. But I do worry for the lowest classes. There is never anyone to raise the discourse in the room. Everyone just struggles all the time. That's all that is being modeled. :mellow:
     
  16. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Meh.
    I'm not sure how I feel about doing entire classes by ability grouping, but as far as small groups in my individual class? I will never not do that.
     
  17. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    There is much research that has been done on this. The research shows that in general little or no gain is made by the lower readers by ability grouping. Lower readers often benefit more by having some students in the group that are good readers. The research does show that high readers do show more benefit with ability grouping than their low reading peers.

    The research shows that teachers who do ability grouping for specific standards and for a small amount of time, tend to make more gains with their low achieving students, than teachers who group them by ability in broad subjects such as "reading" for a long period of time.

    IMO, to say that ability grouping NEVER or ALWAYS works is probably inaccurate. I do think it can be done--especially if somehow it can be done discreetly and only some of the time. Again, that last part is IMO.
     
  18. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Marzano's studies show ability grouping hurts the students in the low group the most and shows nearly no benefit for the high groups. Other researchers claim the tests often put the students of color together in the low groups where they read far fewer words than if they were supported in a whole group lesson.

    Also, low SES students often live in a chaotic home and crave order and calm. When they go to three different classrooms for instruction, there is neither. Few lessons connect to each other and valuable instructional time is spent in passing.

    I can see strong reasons for having prerequisites in high school subjects, but ability grouping in elementary and middle school seems counterproductive.
     
  19. YoungTeacherGuy

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    What about RtI? The purpose of Response to Intervention is for students to receive "just right" instruction. That means students are placed in homogeneous groups. There'd be no reason for a "high" student to receive 30 minutes of intensive reading intervention with a group of struggling readers.

    Outside of RtI, though, I believe in heterogeneous grouping for the most part.
     
  20. MissScrimmage

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    The biggest difference for reading growth is VOLUME. Our lower readers read less because they are sitting in round robin reading groups with struggling readers. They don't get as much opportunity to read because they are sitting there looking at the ceiling while the student next to them is going "C-AAAAA-T... Watermelon!"

    We need to give our struggling readers more actual reading time. I've always grouped by ability, but occasionally I will group by skill. Bottom line, though, everyone reads the entire time, no matter the make up of the group.
     
  21. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    "One kind of grouping that I have seen and liked was to group students based on their learning style. Kinesthetic kids went to the teacher that was active and used manipulatives, visual students went to the teacher who used slides often, and audio learners went to the teacher who preferred to lecture."

    I have recently read a number of papers that state what this study does...
    http://steinhardtapps.es.its.nyu.edu/create/courses/2174/reading/Pashler_et_al_PSPI_9_3.pdf

    Here's a quote from this study:
    "Our review of the literature disclosed ample evidence
    that children and adults will, if asked, express preferences
    about how they prefer information to be presented to them.
    There is also plentiful evidence arguing that people differ
    in the degree to which they have some fairly specific apti-
    tudes for different kinds of thinking and for processing
    different types of information. However, we found virtu-
    ally no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned
    above, which was judged to be a precondition for vali-
    dating the educational applications of learning styles. Al-
    though the literature on learning styles is enormous, very
    few studies have even used an experimental methodology
    capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to
    education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate
    method, several found results that flatly contradict the
    popular meshing hypothesis."

    Not sure how I feel about this, but it's interesting...
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Tyler, you mention, "I can see strong reasons for having prerequisites in high school subjects, but ability grouping in elementary and middle school seems counterproductive." What are your thoughts on the discussion about the differences between different kinds of ability grouping, such as whole class ability grouping for entire subjects or days, vs skill specific ability groupings. How does the Marzano research differentiate between the two? How were instructional modalities and strategies controlled for in that research?

    -How would students read fewer words in small group instruction vs whole group instruction, all else being equal?

    -Tests, by themselves, will not put students from different ethnic backgrounds in the same group unless they happen have similar skill levels. For example, some districts split very poor neighborhoods up into different schools, and the poor neighborhoods happen to be kids of minority status. If that's the case, I would expect to see those kids experience lower levels of reading skill development, and thus be assigned to those lower skill groups. My response would be that this is unfortunate, but if it's the best way to serve the needs of kids in the group, wouldn't that be better than just everyone looking equal (but not really being equal)?

    -Transitions to different teachers: Yes, stability is good, but I do think transitioning in upper elementary (not for ability grouping, but for different subjects) helps prepare for middle school. Maybe not essential, and may need to be balanced with need for stability, but worth considering.
     
  23. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Eded,
    I love your curiosity. Here are some answers to your questions.

    The literature suggests whole school ability grouping is the most destructive followed by within-class ability grouping. Marzano doesn't write about this specifically, but he says given the obvious ineffectiveness of ability grouping, he'd expect that it would have died out long ago.

    Students in low groups are usually given materials with fewer and simpler words. One might assume that these students are as emotionally mature as their classmates and would respond to age-appropriate literature if they had some extra support.

    If the tests used to group students means the low groups are nearly all children of color, then this is racial segregation however pure the teacher's motives. It's wrong and can't be justified. What would you say if the tests put all the boys into advanced math and the girls into home ec? It's wrong.


    Eded, you nailed it. If students are grouped by interest or age for art, science, drama or other subjects on a special occasion basis, then between-class grouping rocks. What I'm concerned about is that our most fragile students sometimes have so much churning, that no one's accountable for them. Also, it's hard for parents to get information about their child when they must seek out 3 different teachers to discuss their child's progress.
     
  24. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Thanks for the response, Tyler. Were those your words in blue? Just trying to identify who's talking about the literature.

    I'd be curious about the specific literature referenced. Again, which studies in particular examined heterogeneous vs homogeneous groupings with no variations other than that? For example, if studies found that homogeneous groupings also led to different strategies being used, those studies would really be evaluating strategy use, not ability groupings. In the example you mentioned in particular, # and complexity of words would actually be the variables assessed, not group composition.

    With the racial segregation issue, I believe we should focus on providing kids with what they need, however those needs are distributed. For example, would we argue that kids learning English as a second language should not be provided with ESL support because that would group them by first language learned/spoken? Should we avoid providing support to kids with severe cognitive difficulty in the same classroom because that would group them separately from other kids? Or, do their needs trump their ethnic status?

    The reality of our society is that different racial/ethnic groups were provided vastly different educational & other opportunities for decades, regardless of level of equality of opportunity now. Given those vast differences, we'd expect to see different levels of average achievement, and therefore some clustering based on ethnicity. This isn't ideal, but avoiding that truth or hiding it by mixing everyone up doesn't mean that inequality is gone.

    In terms of getting information to parents, this is a reality that will exist in middle school. Preparing children (and their parents) to learn how to communicate with more than one teacher isn't necessarily a bad thing in upper elementary.
     
  25. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Eded,

    I'm just slammed right now or I'd look up all those references.

    I would disagree with you on the segregation issue. If all your low groups are one race, something needs to be changed. It's not OK to have racially segregated reading groups no matter how noble the reason.

    The fact that middle school has communication problems does not justify migrating the same problems to elementary school. If the literature does not support between class ability grouping as a strategy, it should be avoided. Then all the problems of stigmatizing students in the low group, communication problems with parents and other problems with ability grouping are gone.
     
  26. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    It's that time of year - no worries :). When you've got the time maybe we can continue? It sounds like that's where we'll leave it until then.

    You did mention "between class ability grouping," which I think we've mentioned is different and I doubt anyone is advocating here at the elementary school level. I'm not sure of the literature, but I think skills are too differentially distributed across skill areas to assign an elementary school child a particular skill group that is stagnant for the whole day (and likely most of the year).

    In terms of segregation, I don't think my advice is about being "noble" - it's about matching best instruction to each child. I'd actually throw the same comment back at your statement - I think having kids all mixed up in terms of ethnicity is doing so just for the sake of being noble, rather than basing grouping on some kind of learning need. Still, I'd say that - in a class or school in which skill grouping was so clearly based on ethnicity that it was painfully obvious for all (including kids) - it makes sense to do neither of our strategies (ignore skill level and group heterogeneously or group homogeneously with blatant racial divides), and instead problem-solve the issue on a more systemic level and create a third solution that avoided both. The main point here is that we should base decisions on best practices - things that actually work - rather than our ideals about how society should function.

    In terms of the middle school transition issue, I have two responses. First, I'm not sure communication issues are inherent in the class switching model in which a child has a different teacher for each subject. More difficult? Probably. But, doesn't mean it has to be difficult. One of the schools I've worked with has a 2-teacher rotation (one teaches math/science, the other teaches ELA/reading), with one of the teachers taking the lead on parent communication (homeroom teacher). This works fabulously, has no home-school communication issues, and prepares kids well in upper elementary for transitioning, adjusting to different teacher styles, etc.

    The long and short of this entire discussion is probably that strategy groups (e.g., switching teachers, skill grouping) can't be uniformly seen as good or bad in most cases. Most of the time, it depends on how they're implemented. I can see instances in which all of the things you mentioned as drawbacks would be true about skill groups. However, there are ways to avoid those drawbacks in many situations.

    So, if you're going to make a statement to the effect of, "Ability/skill groups in elementary are bad," you'd need to support that statement with research that showed it was bad across all/most conditions. In the one study you mentioned, for example, there was a difference in teacher expectation and strategy between the upper and lower skill groups. Because of that, the study can't be used to show that skill groups are ineffective, because it was actually strategy use and expectation that varied across the intervention conditions, not just group assignment.

    Anyway, no need to respond immediately - when you've got the time and if you're still interested let's continue...
     
  27. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I agree we should base our instructional practices on what works, but if a teacher gives a test and puts only males in the high math groups, wouldn't you say that sends a powerful message to girls? Now substitute "white" for boys and "black" for girls in that last sentence. If our actions, however well-intentioned, result in sending a negative message to a certain group of students, that practice is wrong.

    Here are a few research blurbs about ability grouping that our P has shared.

    Lleras, Christy ; Rangel, Claudia
    American Journal of Education, 2008
    This study examines the impact of ability grouping practices on the achievement gains among African Americans and Hispanics during elementary school. Students who are lower grouped for reading instruction learn substantially less, and higher grouped students learn slightly more over the first few years of school, compared to students who are in classrooms that do not practice grouping. Overall, the results of our study call into question the notion that ability grouping is a beneficial practice in the earliest years of schooling.


    Werblow, Urick, and Duesbery
    Equity & Excellence in Education, 2013
    Academic tracking has been shown to limit the quality of student instructional opportunities, decrease students’ perceptions of their abilities, and negatively influence student achievement.

    Chorzempa, Graham
    Journal of Educational Psychology, 2006
    Students in lower ability groups spend more time involved in noninstructional activities, are less likely to be asked critical comprehension questions, and are given fewer opportunities to select their own reading material.
     
  28. gr3teacher

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    I always find it a little uncomfortable how quick you are to dismiss the benefits to highest level students.
     
  29. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I'm not quick. I've studied this for years.

    If you study the literature published in the various journals that specialize in the gifted population, they are able to find evidence that ability grouping (AG) benefits the highest students. When I was running a pull out program for TAG (Talented and Gifted) students, the parents loved the program, and I loved working with that population.

    However, most of the literature comes out against the practice. Marzano being the most prominent. He said that gifted students receive no benefits from ability grouping, but the middle groups do show a slight benefit from AG.
     
  30. gr3teacher

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    I am honestly baffled how anybody, Marzano included, could look at the research and conclude that ability grouping for gifted students provides no benefits.
     
  31. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I think Marzano was only looking for academic performance benefits.
     
  32. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Hoping this response finds you in a more relaxed state!

    For sake of understanding, I think we should simplify this into one of two possible situations: one in which it is very obvious that skill grouping is based on demographics, and one in which there may be demographic tendencies, but it's not overt or obvious to students.

    My first response to your statement would be that I think most situations are probably the latter. I doubt there are tons of classrooms out there in which all students in lower reading groups are Black and all in upper groups are White. If there are circumstances in which it is painfully obvious, my response would be that reading groups are not going to be the only situation in which skill differences are obvious. Whole group instruction won't mask it - higher-skilled students will answer more questions correctly, most likely volunteer answers more often, get tests returned with higher scores, etc. In other words, if there is a painfully obvious difference in achievement levels by demographic in a classroom, I think the issue is more of a root issue that would have to be addressed more globally. Grouping by skill level would, from what I can imagine, not change the experience of inequality in a classroom to a huge degree.

    In the other situation (in which kids don't notice, but there are demographic differences), I'd say the importance of using best practice would trump school or district feelings about inclusion.

    In short, I can see your point, and I think it's worth considering if any instructional practice communicates inequality to students. However, skill groups would likely be no more to blame that any other practice in which kids are able to compare their level of achievement to other kids, and can notice patterns.

    From a slightly different angle, let's take it to an extreme. Let's say every time a teacher (in whole group instruction) asked a challenging question, White kids volunteered to answer correctly while Black kids volunteered less, and answered incorrectly more often. Would you suggest that the teacher stop asking challenging questions. My point is that if there are painfully obvious demographic differences in student achievement or prior learning, this is going to be painfully obvious no matter what the teacher does. I'm not saying it's not worth considering, but we can't get rid of any instructional practice that allows for kids to compare themselves to each other.

    Thanks for pulling this up, Tyler. I know you're busy so I appreciate the list. In short, I don't think this research supports the point that skill/ability groupings are bad, and here's why:

    Let me start with an example. Let's say a study finds that all non-charter public schools in a district are low achieving because they use Curriculum X, whereas all charters are high achieving because they use Curriculum Y. On the surface, it may seem as though charters are better than public schools. However, the real difference is not in the status of the school as charter or non-charter, but in the curriculum used in the school. In reality, being charter vs non-charter has no real affect on achievement because that variable is mediated 100% by the curriculum being used. In short, change the curriculum, change the effect.

    On the other hand, let's say a study found that every single variable in both a charter and non-charter was exactly the same (e.g., both used curriculum Y), but that somehow charters out-performed non-charters. In this case, because we have controlled for variables such as curriculum, we can fairly compare charters and non-charters and start to make some conclusions.

    Similarly, with skill grouping, all of the articles you mentioned found different strategies used in lower-skilled groups vs higher-skilled or whole group instruction. For example, one study found that lower-skilled groups experienced less instructional time. In that situation, it would not be fair to blame differential achievement affects on skill grouping, but on strategies used within the context of that grouping. Put more plainly, and compared with my charter vs non-charter analogy, if lower-skill groups use Curriculum X and higher-skill or whole class groups use Curriculum Y, we really aren't measuring direct effects of ability grouping, but curricula used during ability grouping. The only way to make a direct statement about ability grouping would be to control for instructional (and other) variables during group time. In the first article you listed (which I found and read), this experimental control did not occur. In the 2nd and 3rd articles, your summary directly mentioned how the instructional context varied between skill groupings, thus indicating no experimental control.

    In short, what seems to matter is not whether kids are placed in skill groups, but what happens during those skill groups.

    As a side note, I do see value in the research that you mentioned. Specifically, it shows us that there is a propensity for certain negative instructional practices to occur when skill-grouping occurs. It warns us to be cautious to not do things like lower expectations just because a student is in a lower group. However, from a clinical/practical perspective, this research doesn't allow us to draw the conclusion that skill grouping is bad conceptually.
     
  33. Tyler B.

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    As usual, you have an excellent point. However, researchers like Marzano do not do studies, they study the studies to come come up with meta-studies. His team examines nearly all the reputable literature on a topic and come up with a conclusion. His conclusion: Ability grouping is harmful to students placed in the lower groups.

    It doesn't seem to matter what happens in those low groups, they cause harm. If teachers taught whole group lessons (and offered support to the low students so they could keep up) or grouped students by interest or even randomly, they would see better results.
     
  34. EdEd

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    Dec 21, 2014

    Tyler, I always enjoy our discussions, but in fairness I think this is dismissive. I don't think we can say in a debate of the literature, "Well, the studies we're looking at conclude one thing, but because another person thinks they mean something else that's what we have to go with." We're all entitled to our interpretation of the literature, but I think we need to support those interpretations if we're having a discussion/debate about it, and certainly in our professional practice.

    I do think you've brought up worthy points to be considered - namely, that skills groupings have been found to be less effective than not in some situations. However, when we unpack that data, we discover that it's not the variable of skills groupings, but of what happens in those skills groupings, that matters. I'd ask again - are there any studies you can point to which control for those within-group variables (e.g., expectations, curriculum) which allow us to make statements about skill grouping directly? If you'd like to envoke Marzano, I'd ask you how you think he's respond to my points?

    More broadly, I can't emphasize enough how much I feel that education is full of authors, presenters, etc. that make a living off of telling people their opinions, condensing research or best practice, and otherwise repackaging the literature into consumable products for teachers. This is fine, as long as we understand that we have a professional obligation to make sure what we're being sold is actually backed up. Especially if we're presented with contradictory evidence, such as what I think I've done in this discussion, it's our professional and ethic obligation to address these points. In my opinion, it's unethical to continue to use or not use a strategy that has been demonstrated to you by evidence as effective or ineffective just because you want to trust the conclusions of another person. In other words, you certainly don't owe me a response, but you do owe yourself and the kids you teach a response.

    To me, here's the summary of my thoughts on skill groupings that I really have not given (as I've just been responding to the research you've brought to the table): The overwhelming amount of research and cumulative experience of those I've worked with suggests that providing kids with instruction matched to their current instructional level is not just important, but perhaps one of the most critical variables that exist in education. "Instructional match" is the foundation of big concepts like differentiated instruction, RtI, curriculum pacing, scaffolding, etc. Clearly, teaching concepts to kids that are way over their heads will just not work. Clearly, teaching concepts to kids that they've mastered years ago is pointless. Creating classroom structures that allow us to deliver instruction as closely as possible to kids instructional level makes sense. Are there situations where there may be collateral damage, such as a child feeling bad that s/he isn't in the highest group? Sure. However, there is collateral damage to NOT providing instruction on kids' level - namely, that they don't learn. This cost is, to me, much bigger.

    I'm not trying to dismiss your entire argument, Tyler - I think it's worthwhile to consider how our instructional structures affect kids. However, there's just no support for the global conclusion that "ability groupings are bad for kids." Hiding behind another person's conclusions, rather than responding to the literature directly, doesn't change that.
     
  35. kab164

    kab164 Companion

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    Dec 21, 2014

    We group our first grade students for reading. It is NOT tracking as it is very fluid, with students moving frequently as they make progress or need additional small group support. Grouping students for one subject area for one year isn't tracking. We meet frequently to do data analysis and make changes to interventions, etc.

    This has allowed us to provide small group support for the struggling readers inside the reading classroom, rather than pulling them out. It also really challenged the strongest students, we have them reading chapter books and doing a lot more writing then we did in the past. All of our teachers use the same curriculum, but we are able to target our instructor ion to what the student needs.

    We made this change because we were having trouble meeting our goal of at least 80% of students at benchmark in reading in first grade. Last year we had almost 90%, compared to 68% a few years before. It is very exciting to see the significant amount of progress that our students have made when we provided what they needed, rather than one size fits all. We are also pleased to see through data that our students have maintained those gains in later grades.

    In previous years, the typical teacher had three reading groups within their classroom. This resulted in a lot of 'seat work' while the teacher read with one group. Now we have a solid 90 minute block of instruction with no wasted time. Even the teachers that were hesitant now like the approach we are using because the data doesn't lie.
     
  36. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Dec 22, 2014

    I do like ability groupings for small groups, but I would not want a whole class of one ability group. In small groups you give the kids what they need, but whole group you give just enough of what everyone needs. Some might not agree with this, but I also like that higher kids can serve as a model and motivation for the others. I have seen that those kids can truly inspire the others.
     
  37. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Dec 22, 2014

    I think you misread my postings. I never said that ability grouping is bad for all kids. The literature actually suggests the students in the middle group do better when compared to whole class teaching. I'm just telling you what the research says, and it's pretty clear: it harms the low group students and does not benefit the high grouped students.

    I have a proposal for you. Sometime during the school year have a "literature week" where you put the whole class into the same age-appropriate book. Study the literature for how it's written and make it a class goal to imitate the author's style in a writing project.

    I teach this way all year. My third graders study nearly no reading skills, but they read 3,000 to 5,000 words a day in class. They then interact with that literature connected to their writing assignments. We have a one week unit where we learn what "testing" vocabulary is, and my kids rock those standardized tests.
     
  38. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Dec 22, 2014

    Tyler, it seems we're at an impasse. I've made a somewhat detailed explanation of how the literature actually does not say this, but you haven't responded to my points specifically. Rather, you're just restating your original global statement. Do you understand what I explained about lack of controlled variables and just disagree somehow? Is there another study you're referring to that you haven't mentioned?

    My first response is to say thanks for the idea! Seriously, I'm always open to new strategies. Second, I'd say that there are many classes in which whole group instruction will absolutely work - namely, with kids who are roughly of the same instructional level and who do not lack basic reading skills. In many third grade classes out there, this is the case, so what you're describing makes sense. In many classes, though, there are children who vary by as much as 5 years with skill development. If you have a 3rd grader reading on K level and another reading on 5th grade level, I'd suspect that an "age appropriate" book would make less sense, with the teacher needing to provide more basic skill instruction to the lower reader and more advanced, comprehension/vocab instruction for the more skilled reader.
     
  39. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Dec 22, 2014

    Not following the post, so this is a bit off topic. I really like teaching literature this way.

    The better they can write, the better than can read. IMO, writing drives reading in 4th grade.

    Tyler, do you have or use any other resources that support Bruce Hansens's literature based writing? Anything that you huse that gives you more examples, ideas...etc?
     
  40. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Dec 22, 2014

    I love your last paragraph, and I try to teach this way also. I don't agree that research says ability grouping doesn't benefit gifted kiddos though. My Master's Thesis was on gifted education, and I've done 15 credits of post-grad work on gifted students. Everything that I've seen shows that these students suffer from heterogeneous grouping, unless it's supplemented by at least some type of extra enrichment program. Of course, I think part of the problem is that many places overidentify gifted students, and end up watering down their programs. Alternately, many gifted programs end up as more of the same, rather than appropriate work.

    I have a genuine question about your middle paragraph... using last year's class as an example, I had students at every F&P level from M to Z+. How would you choose one book that would benefit the entire class without resorting to straight readaloud with the lowest students?
     
  41. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Dec 22, 2014

    Sorry, EdEd. I didn't mean to give you the impression I didn't count your views as important. I do. The reason I didn't specifically address your points is that I couldn't see that your points were (or were not) addressed in the studies I cited. The studies were global in their conclusions, so I couldn't comment on the specific examples you brought up. I hope you know I view your excellent contribution to this board as valuable and helpful. It may be that you and I will look at something like "Overall, the results of our study call into question the notion that ability grouping is a beneficial practice in the earliest years of schooling." and draw different conclusions.

    Also, you are right that outlier students (5 years apart from the class-your example), either high or low, need a special program and would not be well served with whole class lessons. That's why we have special ed.
     

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