Question – Why do we allows kids to keep moving up a grade if they are failing in reading or math just because they are of that age? If it is okay for them to move up for that reason then all adults should be enrolled in calculus and nuclear engineering for the same reason, they are old enough. To me that is rather ridiculous. This reason has nothing to do with their level of success or understanding. Why as a district won’t we allow to group kids according to their ability and understanding? In other words why are we keeping kids in a class or level just because of age and not considering ability to do that level? Music groups do this all the time in Jr. High and on. That is what they do in college. They do this in sports as well. You can’t just take classes because you are old enough – you have to pass the prerequisite’s first. Why can’t we group kids so that they have a chance to succeed by being in a class based on their ability only? India has done this, and some charter schools in Utah are doing this. These groups are not static either in that once the students have mastered that level they are moved out and upward to the next level immediately. I hear a lot about the U.S. failing, and I believe this is a common sense way to help the kids especially younger to get a better grasp on subjects and not feel like school is worthless and that they are failures and should drop out etc.
Additionally, we received another question dealing with the similar topic of “ability grouping.” Since my first year as an elementary teacher, I have wondered why classes in the district are directed to have approximately even numbers of high, medium, and low children. Differentiating instruction in all areas every day, so that each individual child learns at his or her own pace is an extremely daunting and difficult task, and you can only do so much with small groups. I understand that there are pros and cons to each side of the argument, and having a more homogenous class certainly doesn’t mean we would only have to teach each concept one way, but it seems that if students were grouped according to their abilities, the teaching would be much more effective, since most kids would grasp a concept in a more unified manner (instead of some “getting it” in five seconds and others in five days). Even now that the district is pushing that each grade level have at least one gifted-endorsed teacher, and with so-called “gifted” classes, those classes still have the same wide range of abilities as any other. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Some may argue that student self-esteem is a factor—which it certainly is—but I would think that even if a student is in the “low” class, once he sees that he is not the only one struggling, and that they can all overcome that challenge together, that issue would be diminished. The definition of “fair” isn’t that everyone gets the same thing—it’s that everyone gets what they need. Students need to learn with a group closer to their own level, be it high or low. Some teachers may not want to be stuck with the “low” class, but if it meant I could teach a whole class at the same level (or at least closer to the same level), I would happily take them. Could you please explain the rationale of having even ability distribution in all classes, instead of grouping by ability?
Response – Grade retention is a serious process requiring, first, parental request and, second, a school level committee decision based on a wide variety of criteria beyond math and reading scores. We believe that all students can learn and be academically successful and that it is our job to provide the differentiated instruction and academic supports to help them realize that potential, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, etc. It has been asked why we don’t do what is done in India, where “once the students have mastered that level they area moved out and upward”. We do – we expect teachers to differentiate for students who, when they master an academic concept, are moved on to other concepts, exposed to more depth and complexity, provided enrichment. This (linked) district memo addresses these questions in detail.
Research has repeatedly shown that as a whole, heterogeneously grouped students perform better than a collective group dispersed into homogeneous groups. Our focus will be to continue to provide differentiated instruction specific to each individual child’s needs.
Thank you to the Instruction and Learning Department for their assistance in responding to these questions.