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ERIC Number: EJ910577
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1539-9664
All Together Now? Educating High and Low Achievers in the Same Classroom
Petrilli, Michael
Education Next, v11 n1 p48-55 Win 2011
The greatest challenge facing America's schools today isn't the budget crisis, or standardized testing, or "teacher quality." It's the enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom. Unfortunately, the issue has become enmeshed in polarizing arguments about race, class, excellence, and equity. What's needed instead is some honest, frank discussion about the trade-offs associated with any possible solution. U.S. students are all over the map in terms of achievement. By the 4th grade, public-school children who score among the top 10 percent of students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are reading at least six grade levels above those in the bottom 10 percent. For a teacher with both types of students in her classroom, that means trying to challenge kids ready for middle-school work while at the same time helping others to decode. Even differences between students at the 25th and at the 75th percentiles are huge--at least three grade levels. So how does a teacher deal with that? In the old days, "ability grouping" and tracking provided the answer. Then came the attack on tracking. A flurry of books in the 1970s and 1980s argued that confining youngsters to lower tracks hurt their self-esteem and life chances, and was elitist and racist to boot. So if grouping all students together leads to pernicious effects, but divvying kids up by ability is politically unacceptable, what's the alternative? The ed-school world has an answer: "differentiated instruction." The notion is that one teacher instructs a diverse group of kids, but manages to reach each one at precisely the appropriate level. The idea is to "shake up what goes on in the classroom so that students have multiple options for taking in information, making sense of ideas, and expressing what they learn." Ideally, instruction is customized at the individual student level. Every child receives a unique curriculum that meets that individual's exact needs. A teacher might even make specialized homework assignments, or provide the specific one-on-one help that a particular kid requires. (Contains 1 figure.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Assessment of Educational Progress