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To Group or Not To Group: Pros and Cons of Grouping Students with Varying Skill Levels

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When students of all skill levels are joined together in a classroom, there are numerous possible scenarios, some beneficial, others potentially tragic. In some cases, a student may feel left behind, not fully understanding the material but hesitant to ask questions for fear of peer ridicule. Conversely, a brighter student may easily become bored as the teacher must repeat the material or illustrate the concept in a new light for those students who have not yet understood. Between these extremes are the average students, usually the majority, who may feel educationally trapped between “the gifted” and “the slow”. One potential solution to these challenges is grouping classes according to skill level. This approach has several potential flaws and setbacks, and opponents of “grouping” express valid concerns. However, globalization and previous failures in public education are forcing architects of learning, administrators, principals, and teachers to consider dynamic approaches to instruction and learning. Parents, teachers, and administrators on both sides of the issue must remember their shared goal—to empower children through education—and be open to objective research and reasonable reform.
Imagine a third grade class of 60 students. There are three teachers assigned to teach third grade. Many schools today simply split these 60 students into three classes of twenty based on parent and teacher requests, politics, and luck of the draw. Oklahoma’s public education system, starting at third grade, already tests students annually on skills and abilities via the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests (OCCT). Now imagine 15 students score above-average in math, 15 score below-average, and 30 receive average scores. One teacher can work with ...


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...er 7, 2011, from http://www.wright-house.com/ac/papers97/Hyland-ac1.html

Marzano Research Laboratory. (2010, March 29). Results | Re-Inventing Schools Coalition - RISC. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from http://www.reinventingschools.org/resources/results/

Marzano Research Laboratory. (2010, April). RISC vs. Non-RISC Schools. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from http://www.marzanoresearch.com/documents/RISC_vs_Non_RISC.pdf

RISC Approach to Schooling | Re-Inventing Schools Coalition - RISC. (2010, February 10). Re-Inventing Schools Coalition - RISC. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from http://www.reinventingschools.org/resources/the-risc-approach-to-schooling/

USA Today. (2010, July 5). Some schools grouping students by skill, not grade level - USATODAY.com. Retrieved November 6, 2011, from http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-07-05-grade-held-back_N.htm


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