This Sunday's Washington Post Metro section has an article on 'Closing the Gap', discussing how one school has improved test scores by ability grouping their students for more than half of the instructional day. At first this makes me automatically recoil. Ability grouping? Really? Is this what NCLB has brought us to?
On second look it may not be that bad a program. The students' progress is monitored closely by the entire school. Once they are able to move up they do, and they never move back down. In the beginning of the program the school looked into the gifted and talented programs across their county. It sounds like they are applying the ideas they got to the entire school, just differentiated by level. (I may be wrong about that though).
What I think works about this is that the teachers and administrators carefully track the progress of each child. It sounds like each child's need are taking into consideration and each is taught at his or her level. They also seem to be doing a great job engaging the parents by hosting a 'closing the gap' dinner for parents of students who have made progress that year. By congratulating the parents on their child's accomplishment they are also sending a message that there is a partnership between the school and home.
On the other hand, I wonder what the atmosphere in the school is like. It sounds like standardized tests are frequent occurrences. Are the children in the accelerated classes given higher social status than others? What is the feeling in a class when a child moves up? What about the children who are not moving up? And, do we let emotions interfere with academic success? (Or do they go hand in hand?)
I'm interested in other educator's opinions on this system. What are your thoughts?