Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Gifted education and flexible ability grouping

Thank you Davis Enterprise for running Vivian Yee’s story from the New York Times on June 25, regarding the increasing use of ability grouping by public school teachers. Yee explains that ability-grouping is increasingly common all over the nation, with 61% of fourth grade teachers grouping students by ability in math in 2011. Flexible ability grouping, according to the teachers and principals interviewed by Yee, “has become indispensable” and helps teachers “cope with widely varying levels of ability and achievement.” The strategy prevents advanced students in math or language arts from being bored or frustrated, and yet offers a dynamic option where students can move from grade-level to more challenging or less challenging groupings as their needs require.

Flexible ability grouping can provide an excellent alternative to rigid self-contained classes for gifted students in Davis, and I urge district decision-makers to use it more in the future. This is the type of differentiated instruction in mixed ability classrooms that many in Davis have been requesting for a long time, as explained by Proposing Alternatives in Gifted Education (PAGE) on its website found at davislearningtogether.org.

Karen Hamilton
Davis

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 3 comments

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  • TAndersonJune 27, 2013 - 10:55 am

    I wonder, Karen, let's say if you have 3 kids who are on different levels in piano, do you send all three to the same teacher and ask the teacher to differentiate and flexible-grouping them with all other kids who are also on different levels? or do you send them to individual lessons? which way is more effective for your kids in learning piano? Have you considered how much pressure you put on the teachers to differentiate kids with many different levels at the same time?

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  • TAndersonJune 27, 2013 - 11:06 am

    Let me be clear: teachers are already differentiating and flexible-grouping in the classrooms. With more kids in the classrooms, limited resources, no new funding, more pressure on bring up the under-performing gaps, and Common Core transitions, how much more a teach can do in a classroom?

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  • Karen HamiltonJune 27, 2013 - 11:34 am

    Did you read the article I referred to in my letter? If you read it you will see that somehow, the vast majority of other districts and teachers seem to be using flexible ability grouping, to much success. Indeed, Davis teachers successfully differentiate for full-inclusion of special ed and EL students, and for all types of students in grades K-3 (at least in reading). If you are speaking as a DJUSD non-GATE teacher and expressing the view of the majority of your colleagues, I respect that and I would like to hear more about what Davis teachers believe is the best way to serve gifted kids in elementary. I agree with your second comment that teachers aleady are differentiating in Davis classes -- that is, some teachers, with some support, some of the time. With district-wide support, training, and additional resources, this can be increased so that nearly all gifted students can be well-served in the regular classroom in grades 4-6. Regarding class-sizes, Common Core, etc. -- I believe these are used as an excuse by pro status-quo advocates, because when class sizes were much lower just a few years ago, I didn't hear anyone from the gifted program saying "maybe we don't need self-contained classes after all, since small class sizes make it easier for teachers to differentiate."

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