Ability Grouping: Is it Effective? Michelle Sendek Ron Lasko Jamie Williams Introductory Activity • Pass out materials and discuss. • Discussion: How did you feel being in the high and/or low achieving group? What is Ability Grouping? • Ability grouping is the practice of placing students of similar academic ability level within the same group for instruction as opposed to placement by age and grade level. Types of Ability Grouping • Within Class Grouping – Teachers will divide the class into small groups, particularly for reading and math instruction (Westchester Institute for Human Services Research, 2002) – Used more in elementary grades Types of Ability Grouping • Between Class Grouping – School separate students into different classes, courses, etc. (Westchester Institute for Human Services Research) – Similar to tracking- grouping students who then take all high, middle, or low-level classes – Most common type of grouping in secondary schools Types of Ability Grouping • Joplin Plan – Developed by Cecil Floyde (1954) – Students are grouped heterogeneously for most of the day, but are grouped by ability for reading instruction (Tieso, 2002) – www.cfhistorian.edublogs.org/ Discussion • Do you or your school use ability grouping? • What types of ability groups are used in your schools? YES! Ability Grouping is Effective Yes, Ability Grouping is Effective • Ability grouping supports learning (Edwards, Blaise, Hammer, 2009) – Teachers can provide more individualized attention to the smaller groups – Classrooms with grouping strategies tend to be more student-centered • Students become involved in their learning • Ability grouping reduces stress on students – Students do not have to know the same material as students with higher and/or lower abilities Yes, Ability Grouping is Effective – Between class grouping reduces heterogeneity in classrooms without affecting students’ self- esteem (Tieso, 2003) – Student in primary grades may not notice differences in abilities – Students will not be labeled in class To Be Effective… – Groups must be flexible and temporary (Tieso, 2003) • Assessments • Teacher cooperation – Different groups may be developed depending on the subject area (McCoach, O’Connell, & Levitt, 2006) • Reading vs. Math groups To Be Effective… – Adjustments must be made to the curriculum • Between class grouping – Teachers focus their instruction on the specific needs of the students in their group. Appropriate support can be given to the students. • Within class grouping – More planning and preparations are done by teachers to meet the needs of various groups. The time and effort are reward by the students’ success. Research that says “YES!” • Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Elementary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis – Robert E. Slavin (John Hopkins University) – Review of Educational Research 1987 Research that says “YES!” • Research supports the Joplin Plan – Reading • Within-class ability grouping for math also instructionally effective • Most effective when only done for one or two subjects and group assignments are frequently reassessed NO! Ability Grouping is Ineffective No, Ability Grouping is Ineffective • Ability groups are destructive to the classroom community • Teachers have lower expectations for lower achieving groups • Low achieving groups continue to fall further behind No, Ability Grouping is Ineffective • Possibility of being permanently placed in lower group • Increases the responsibility of the teacher – # students may make it difficult to pay enough attention to each student and if they should be moved from one group to another No, Ability Grouping is Ineffective • Stigma attached to low sections, discouraging the students • Discriminates against minority and lower- class students • Students in lower track receive lower quality of instruction No, Ability Grouping is Ineffective • With all children performing at lower level, no opportunities for students to learn from others with higher skill levels • Higher dissatisfaction as students get older • Boys in secondary schools were more dissatisfied with ability grouping than girls because of the work assigned whether harder or easier (Hallam & Ireson, 2007) Who Else Says No! • The following groups have called for an end to ability grouping: – National Governor’s Association – College Board – National Education Association – ACLU Research that says “NO!” • Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis – Robert E. Slavin (John Hopkins University) – Review of Educational Research Fall 1990 Research that says “NO!” • Ability grouping shows little to no effect on achievement of secondary students, as measured by standardized tests • Ability grouping is equally ineffective in all subjects, except social studies where it has a negative effect Example of Ability Grouping Not Being Used • Denmark – Classes consist of mixed backgrounds and interests – Classes typically are formed based on residential pattern (i.e. students who live near each other and play together) Morrill, 2003 Example of Ability Grouping Not Being Used • Denmark (Morrill, 2003) – Classes stay with the same “class teacher” (homeroom teacher) for all of primary school and part of lower secondary school • Promotes good relationships between teachers and students and teachers and parents – Danish do not test during primary grades – Enroll in school at age 7 without previous academic activities Discussion • Do students in special education or “gifted” students count as ability groups? What about Gifted Students and Special Education Students? • One question not asked in the Slavin research was whether programs designed to provide differentiated education for gifted or special education students were effective • Kulik and Kulik’s meta-analytic reviews do address these students The Research Says… • Gifted and high-ability children show positive academic effects from some forms of homogenous grouping • The strongest positive academic effects of grouping for gifted students result from either acceleration or classes that are specially designed for the gifted and use specially trained teachers and differentiated curriculum and methods. The Research Says… • Average and low-ability children may benefit academically from certain types of grouping, particularly elementary school regrouping for specific subject areas such as reading and mathematics, as well as from within-class grouping. Conclusion • The results of the educational research seems to have something to support each side • The effectiveness depends on the teachers implementing it Conclusion What do we think…? To view our resources and a list of pros and cons, please visit our wiki… http://ed501abilitygrouping.wikispaces.com References • Allan, S. D. (1991). What do they say about grouping and the gifted? Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.donet.com/~eprice/sdallan.htm. • Edwards, S., Blaise, M., & Hammer, M. (2009). Beyond developmentalism? Early childhood teachers’ understanding of multiage grouping in early childhood education and care. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 33(4), 55-63. • Hallam, S. & Ireson, J. (2007). Secondary school pupils’ satisfaction with their ability grouping placements. British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 27-45. doi:10.1080/01411920601104342. • Jensen, A., & California Teachers Association, B. (1970). Parent and teacher attitudes toward integration and busing. Research Resume, Number 43. Retrieved from ERIC database. • Morrill, R. (2003). Denmark: Lessons for American principals and and teachers? Phi Delta Kappan, 84(6), 460. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database. • McCoach, B. D., O’Connell, A. A., & Levitt, H. (2006). Ability grouping across kindergarten using an early childhood longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Research, 99(6), 339-346. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. References • McPartland, J. M., & Slavin, R. E. (1990). Increasing achievement of at-risk students at each grade level. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from ERIC database. • National Education Association. (2010). Retrieved from www.nea.org. • National Governor’s Association. Retrieved from www.maec.org/tracking.html. • New York Times Company, The. (2010). About.com: Learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/ac/a/ability_grouping.htm. • Pallas, A. M., Entwisle, D. R., Alexander, K. L., & Stluka, M. F. (1994). Ability-group effects: Instructional, social, or institutional? Sociology of Education, 67, 27-46. • Slavin, R. E. (1990). Achievement effects of ability grouping in secondary schools: A best-evidence synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 60(3), 471-499. • Slavin, R. E. (1987). Achievement effects of ability grouping in secondary schools: A best-evidence synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 57(3), 293-336. • Tieso, C. (2003). Ability grouping is not just tracking anymore. Roeper Review, 26(1), 29-36. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. • Useem, E. L. (1990). Social class and ability group placement in mathematics in the transition to seventh grade: The role of parental involvement. Boston, MA: American Educational Research Association. Retrieved from ERIC database. • Westchester Institute for Human Services Research. (2002). Research-based information on timely topics: Ability Grouping. The Balanced View, 6(1).
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