Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Response to Edutopia: Does teaching high performing and low performing students together benefit both?

I don't have full research to back it up and it's only my own classroom experience, but, Mixed classes are a huge challenge. In order to facilitate teaming and integration in the Middle School/Junior High I worked in a decision was made to place all of the Special Education students together on the same team. This meant that one teacher got all of the Special Ed. Students. That teacher was me. Now, maybe I lacked imagination or was just a lousy teacher, but my average scores for the end of level Criterion Referenced Tests were consistently lower than the teachers who didn't have Special Education students. Even when the Special Ed. student scores were pulled out.

Again, the argument can be made (and usually is by legislators who want to blame all educational failures on bad teachers) that I was simply a poorer teacher than the other teachers. But what I saw from my perspective was that I had to modify whole assignments not just for the Special Ed. Students but for the whole class. Students who were able to do more and work faster were often held back either because their energy was going in to helping Special Ed. Students or compensating for their lacks during cooperative learning activities.

Politically it isn't very well liked to group kids by ability levels but practically it is much more productive. It is ideal when each individual student can have individual pacing, but reality dictates that we teach groups of students. Teaching groups makes more sense if those students are grouped similarly as far as demonstrated ability.

In my ideal world these groups or classes would not exist in isolation but would be brought together for some activities and projects but then be pulled out for advanced or remedial instruction as necessary.

1 comment:

Chris Haught said...

I love your blog! I work in a rural school that has a high % of Sp Ed students and ESL. One teacher/class per grade. We started using Differentiated Teaching and love it! All students were able to participate in a meaningful way!

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