« New York State Teacher-Evaluation Results Reveal Local Discrepancies | Main | Group Asks Congress to 'Mix It Up at Lunch,' Too »

Multi-Grade Grouping Gaining Favor?

At Lincoln-Erdman Elementary School in Sheboygan, Wis., a new program puts 4th and 5th grade students together in classes according to their skill levels, reports the Sheboygan Press. The program aims to allow teachers to tailor class time to students' needs and to prepare students for middle school, where they will switch classrooms every period.

Jenny Burhop, a 4th grade teacher at the school, said, "Students that always kind of took a back seat and were afraid to raise their hand because there were so many students around them who knew more, those students are now starting to blossom because they're like, 'Whoa, I'm on equal ground here.'"

Burhop emphasized that the practice is not the same as "tracking" because the groups will be fluid. The Lincoln-Erdman teachers plan to consistently reassess their students' progress--using standardized testing, teacher observations, and parent input--and move students as needed throughout the year.

Ability grouping remains a contentious topic among educators. In a recent discussion on Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo, educator and author Rick Wormeli wrote that "homogeneous, not heterogeneous, grouping is the way to go--as long as it's temporary and group membership is dynamic, not static"--a view that supports this type of program. However, in the next blog post in the discussion, high school principal Carol Burris, a vocal opponent of tracking, lamented that ability grouping is making a comeback, saying it "result[s] in racially stratified classes" and is not supported by research. She recommended differentiation and flexible groups within a multi-level classroom.

Teachers, what  are your thoughts? Does grouping kids based on skill level across grades work? Why or why not? What are the caveats here? And the benefits? 

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Follow This Blog


Most Viewed On Teacher



Recent Comments