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 Ability grouping 
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As a special education major, I am really glad to see the articles on ability grouping. Often times teachers use ability grouping in their classrooms to place children with learning disabilities or lower academic progress without thinking about how it makes the students feel. Elementary school is one of the prime times that teachers use ability grouping, such as guided reading groups, math, writing, etc. Kids know when they get placed in the "dumb" group. This places a stigma on the child and can lead to misbehavior and low self-esteem. If teachers would consider these effects and place children in random heterogeneous groups, no child would feel like they weren't smart enough. Often times ability grouping seems like the easiest way for teachers teach small groups. However, better outcomes happen when children are placed in different groups. Students can become peer tutors, as well as make more social connections. This is a small step toward inclusion. Including all students, no matter their race, ability level, or disability is so important for equality of all students. The research suggests that grouping students by ability does not have very many positive outcomes for the students. Since we are all future teachers in this class, I am very glad we are presented with these articles to make us consider how we are making students feel. Even though we have a long way to go until or schools reach inclusion of all students, getting rid of ability tracking is one small step towards it.

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Jordan Will


Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:23 am
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I agree with the readings on ability grouping. Most of the effects are negative, and yet, we cannot seem to get past them. My question is if we can ever have true inclusion? It is possible not to track students?

At the elementary level, I do not think that we can get around grouping within the classroom. I am actually a proponent of it. In the early grades especially, there are so many different levels that kids are on. Part of meeting the needs of diverse learners is being sure that we challenge every child at their level. I think the beauty of grouping in elementary classrooms is the fact that the classrooms are still inclusive. Kids are still interacting with each other. Some may be performing at a more advance level in one subject or another, and that is okay. I do think it is important to mix the groups when possible so that all the children get an opportunity to work with each other and form relationships.

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Kelly Allen


Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:25 pm
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I am not against grouping, I am just against ability grouping. Like Kelly said, grouping is very hard to get around especially in elementary schools. Grouping children together to work on activities, in centers, etc. have a big impact on how children make friends. Grouping for classroom projects or activities are great for children to learn how to work together as long as the teacher chooses a heterogeneous group of children. I just don't believe it is fair to group children, in kindergarten or 10th grade, based on how smart they are. When they get to high school students have the opportunity to challenge themselves and enroll in honor or AP classes. I really wouldn't consider this as ability grouping because it is the student's choice. However, when children are in elementary school the teacher ususally arranges groups and often times does this by ability. This is very unfair to the children who may be struggling in an area already and then they are known as being in the "dumb" group. I know we have all had experiences like this. When I was a kid, I used to play school with my friends. We would set up a school room in my playhouse and would seperate our pretend students into the smart group and the dumb group. We would always switch off being the teacher for the "dumb" group and the teacher for the "smart" group. My friends and I didn't just make up this grouping set up, it was something we had seen in our own classrooms at school. Kids know when they are grouped by their ability and it is not fair.

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Jordan Will


Wed Feb 01, 2006 10:38 am
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Looking back on my elementary school and high school experience (middle school was a little messed up for me) I feel that I was always put in the high group. I took language arts and math with Mrs. Newsom, our AG teacher. IN high school I took all the Honors/AG classes.

Where I'm getting to with this is that I never felt like I was being tracked. It never really entered my mind that I was different. I have no idea how the other kids felt.

In a perfect world schools would have enough funding to where they could take a much more individualistic approach to schooling. Kids would not have to be lumped into groups and any special needs could be addressed on an individual basis.

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-Rodney Woods

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you" - Nietzsche


Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:38 am
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I found this article very interesting. I think that while ability grouping can be harmful in some instances, If done in a positive manner, I think it is neccessary. I agree with Kelly that in elementary school, kids are on very differnet levels. As a teacher, I feel that we need to make sure we are helping each student fufill his or her potential. At the same time, every child needs to feel like part of the group as a whole and not feel isolated.

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Samantha McCrary


Wed Feb 01, 2006 1:12 pm
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The entire issue of ability grouping is very interesing. I had never thought of such issues before becuase like some of you have mentioned I was normally always with honors classes or the like and I never realized the impact the other might have on someone. The more I read about grouping the more I disliked it, however it is hard to get around. People do learn at different rates and are at different levels on a lot of things but the goal is to try to allow everyone to grow individually without hindering them socially and mentally. This is a tough call and I look forward to hearing more tonight about what people have to say on this issue. The main thing I have thought about is the fact that in the real world there is no one worrying about your self-esteem issues and if youare with the right group of people, however I do not think this sort of things should be in education, especially in the elementary and middle grade years.

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Jill Parsons


Wed Feb 01, 2006 3:11 pm
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I definitely understand Kelly’s stand dealing with ability grouping in young, elementary school. We don’t want to set the children up for failure at such a young age. Plus, do children that young really have the necessary verbal and social skills needed to peer teach others? But, as children progress to middle and higher elementary there should be heterogeneous grouping in order to facilitate equality to all students. Statistics prove that heterogeneous grouping does indeed benefit a large majority of students than those that are grouped homogeneously. Obviously, schools should continue using this process in their classrooms due to the positive correlation that occurs. The more mixed groups there are in the classrooms, the higher the test scores and individual development there is in students. We can’t take the easy way out as teachers. We need to make a difference in children lives and this would play a major role in doing so.

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Matt Rowe

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Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:02 pm
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I recently read something about the Pygmalion effect, which I think is very important to consider when thinking about ability grouping. Here's the wikipedia article on it, and another from a site about the history of education. Basically, a teacher's expectations of students has a lot to do with the students' achievement. If a random group of students is labeled as "gifted", teachers will treat them differently, eventually leading to enhanced performance. Teachers expect less, and therefore demand less, out of their "regular" students, leading to a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. I would think that homogenous classes are more likely than mixed classes to be affected by this.

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Maggie Chambers

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. ~ B. F. Skinner


Thu Feb 02, 2006 4:54 pm
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I think there is a very fine line between tracking a student for failure, and preparing them for a seemingly substandard life. I think tracking is over-used, it hurts far more students than it helps, but there are some cases where it should be used.

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Danny Jugan

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Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:17 am
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Ability grouping, though could have some positives, in my opinion is the wrong way to go. Just like Ollie, students know they are being put in the dumb group, then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, once they see themselves marked as being stupid, they react that way. Whereas, if they are placed in a heterogenous environment they are challenged to work harder. I think we should leave them, and work harder as teachers to reach them, possibly try different teaching techniques to help them understand.

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Burl Greene


Fri Feb 03, 2006 3:55 pm
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