Ability Grouping - Part 2

4. Disparity in terms of quantity and quality of education between the high track and low track is inevitable.The major concern is that the students in the low track are expected to learn more slowly and at lower cognitive levels. They have fewer demands placed on them and spend the majority of their time in routine activities such as rote learning, writing in workbooks, basic computation, and, memorisation (Barquet, 1992). As a consequence, many children who are placed in low track show a progressive retardation as they progress through school (Reynold, 1989). It is a harmful educational practice which results in lower educational attainment in terms of educational goals. 85 % of the research says that ability grouping is not beneficial.
5. Previously, the names assigned to the groups were such that they would easily reveal the academic level the child belonged to. For example, groups named 1, 2 or 3 easily identify the students that are on the higher and lower levels. Now, the group names have become less obvious in revealing the level of group that the child belongs to. Adrienne Mack concludes that “no matter what the groups' names are, the children, teachers, and parents always know who the "dumb" kids are and who the "bright" ones are. Labels stick with children forever.”
6. Tracking is not just an assignment to a perceived ability group in school. Ultimately, low ability groups become dumping ground for learners with discipline problems, some of whom are not of low ability. Children feel inferior to those on higher levels and they then begin to perform at a lower level. Students on the low track are more likely to be delinquent than other students and are less likely to complete their education. Not only do the students feel inferior, they become less motivated to make the effort to learn.
7. Students in a lower grouping may work to that level: If students are placed in a group where learning is done at a slower pace and concepts are understood in a longer period of time, then some students may work to that level, even though they are capable of achieving more. As educators, we must be sensitive to the effects of ability grouping on students from at-risk situations.
I would request all the readers to go through the following case study:
Two teachers in a New York Public School that has gifted programs decided to split up a troublesome gifted class and fill the empty spaces with mainstream children. The teachers placed great emphasis on cooperation and sharing in the classroom and at the end of the school year they noticed the positive effects that the program had on both the gifted and mainstream children(Savitch,Serling). They concluded that the "children had opportunities to be helpers in subjects in which they were strong, and to be helped in areas where they needed support. On no occasion were the helpers all gifted children and those being helped all mainstream" (Savitch, Serling 74).
In conclusion, it is important to discuss the future of tracking in schools because it determines not only the construction of curriculum of the schools, but it also affects the thoughts and attitudes of the children. The issue of grouping children by their ability, which is determined by their test scores or teacher evaluations, is very controversial in the school system today. Although we may feel that it is beneficial when used correctly because it deals with the special interests of the student, the fact remains that it is very damaging for the students.
Ability grouping causes segregation of students, not allowing knowledge to be spread to all children, and causes students to be labelled as below average. All of these debates are important to discuss not only in the field of education, but also in everyday society. The education of students today affects the future of our society. Our direct responsibility is towards building a society that believes in being just & fair; that is inclusive and doesn’t believe in any kind of discrimination.
I also would like to draw the attention of educators to our vision and mission statements which will help us reflect whether we are marching towards the fulfilment of the same.
Lastly, I would like to quote Roberts, Director of the Efficacy Institute, "Smart is not something you are, it’s something you get when the process is right. If you find the right key, find the right strategy, every child can be gifted and talented".