What’s Working? Conversations!

This post was originally entitled “We Need To Ability Group” but after listening to the NBC Town hall on September 25, 2010 @johnccarver had the idea of asking “What’s Working?” on Twitter. I suggested we all go write a blog about what’s working and share them with the hashtag #educationnation. Here’s mine.

My 4th and 5th grade teachers are thinking reflectively through grouping, response to intervention and providing enrichment an quality learning experiences for all kids right now. They’re thinking though pre-assessments, flexible grouping and ways to differentiate that meet many different kinds of learning needs.

On Thursday, several of us were having a conversation about some of the issues we face when adding a SPED teacher and Gifted teacher into the mix. Both grades have math at the same time, and scheduling and flexible grouping brings many challenges. One of the teachers said, “We just need to ability group!”  and I responded, “Ability group, or achievement group?”  The teacher nods and says, “Yeah, I meant achievement group.”

The third teacher is looking at us quizzically, and I said, “There’s no way we can truly know the real ability of these students–we can only speak to their current level of achievement. We don’t know what these kids are capable of, giving the right situation and opportunities, so how could we possibly group that way?  If we say “these kids are the bottom kids,” then what do we doom them to believing about themselves? And what are we saying to parents about the potential of their children?”

She then nodded and said, “Oh, I see what you’re getting at–achievement grouping and NOT ability grouping–we all need to use that language as we talk about just how we’re going to meet the needs of all of our children!”

It’s not JUST about the language, but also the beliefs…and helping folks be aware of the beliefs they may accidentally portray by words is important. We haven’t decided just exactly how we’re going to split up the kids… but as we do, I know at least three of us will be thinking about the differences between achievement and ability as we talk.

Words do matter. When teachers confuse the language, how do we help parents understand education? Achievement and ability are two different things–let’s make sure we don’t confuse them, or use them interchangeably!

Related Posts by DJakes:

Words Matter

Words Matter: Game Changer

11 thoughts on “What’s Working? Conversations!

  1. I love the concept of “achievement grouping” because it leaves room for students to move at their own pace, set realistic goals to fill their learning gaps and master objectives versus moving with the set curriculum because that’s what they are expected to learn in a certain grade level. The collaboration of your team is definitely a Best Practice that all schools should adopt. Your teaching and learning community will definitely be strengthened.

    LaToniya, You clearly understand the importance of kids embracing and controlling their learning. Want to come work in Albemarle County? All schools need thoughtful practitioners like you! Thanks for commenting and please come back!


  2. Paula,
    Thank you for your insightful blog. I am currently pursuing a secondary education degree at the University of South Alabama. I firmly believe in what you said about the grouping of students. I can remember when they first started separating students in my classes according to achievement and those were some of the only students that when on to college. I just think it can send a negative message to both the student and the parents. The majority of student try their best in school and it just seems categorizing them in groups just sets them back and they cannot catch back up. I also feel it affect the parent’s of the student because parents send their best kid to school everyday. So classifying them could have negative affects on the parents as well. Thank you.

  3. Paula,

    I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently enrolled in Dr. John Strange’s EDM 310 course. Your post was very interesting! On occasions I catch myself doing exactly what these teachers did. I’ll use one word when I really mean to use another! As a future teacher, I need to make sure I use each word wisely so I am able to deliver precise information. Thank you for sharing such a well written post!

  4. Hi, my name is Toni Parrish and I am a student at the University of South Alabama majoring in elementary education who is also taking Dr. Strange for EDM310. I want to first say that it is nice to still have educators to care about their student’s academic progress oppose to just overlooking the problem. Also I want to say that I sometimes get my word mixed up by I try my best to correct myself. Thank you for sharing this information with me I will be commenting on this on my blog:parrishtoniedm310.blogspot.com

  5. Hi, my name is Caryn and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. First off, thank you for this blog. I really enjoyed reading it. I really liked what you said about putting children in groups. It is nice to know that teachers who have been teaching awhile still care about their students. Thanks for the post.

  6. My name is Talisa Swain and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I was reading your blog as an assignment and this post stuck out to me the most. When I was in the 6th grade, we were grouped according to our ability. The students in 6D and 6E (the “bottom” students), were a very rebellious group. I often wonder if they would have achieved more or if they would have behaved better if they weren’t classified as failures. I’m sure your students will appreciate that you have more faith in their abilities.

  7. So nice and interesting blog..I really enjoyed reading it. I really liked what you said about putting children in groups. It is nice to know that teachers who have been teaching awhile still care about their students. Thanks for the post

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