Sunday, March 31, 2013

Atlantic article points out the benefits of ability grouping in schools

    The Atlantic has a must-read article about the re-emergence of ability grouping in schools.
    Ability grouping is common sense. The one-room schoolhouse of 100 years ago -- which included students of all abilities into a single schoolroom -- was fine when there was no other choice. But dividing students into grades makes far more sense.
    Unfortunately, our society doesn't want to fail anyone, so students are age graded instead of ability graded. And in the name of equality ability grouping has been frowned upon in favor of mixed-ability grouping and differentiated instruction.
    In the typical fifth- or sixth-grade classroom there will be 10 or 12 years difference in reading ability and perhaps eight years difference in math ability between the brightest and dullest students. The brightest sixth-graders are likely to be reading at the level of the typical college freshman or sophomore. The dullest at the first- or second-grade level. No teacher can adequately teach a group of students with such a mish-mash of abilities.
    Differentiated instruction doesn't work any better than the one-room schoolhouse. We needs laws requiring that students be given regular achievement tests and that they be grouped on the basis of their achievement. Studies show that all students learn more when grouped with students of like ability and taught at a level that is slightly more difficult than the material they have already mastered.
    We need to worry less about making every student equal and instead attempt to teach every student as much as possible as quickly as possible. If we do this, some students will start earning college credits in the seventh or eighth grade. This will benefit society tremendously.
    To quote from the article:
Unfortunately, the efforts and philosophies of otherwise well-meaning individuals have attempted to eliminate the achievement gap by eliminating achievement. 
    How true! I urge everyone to read this article and to raise this issue with their local school boards. Schools which use differentiated instruction are intentionally depriving America's schoolchildren of a decent education, and depriving our nation of a prosperous future.

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