Mathematics: Grouping According To Ability, With Resources

2917 words - 12 pages

Thomas Jefferson stated, "Nothing is so unequal as the equal treatment of unequal people" (Fiedler, 2002). Yet, with the current trends in education, all students are placed in the same educational setting, regardless of their individual needs. Educational trends are leading all students to be placed in one mixed-ability classroom, and specialized classrooms are viewed as a form of discrimination. The disparities between exceptional students' rights and special needs students' rights are astonishing. Consider for example, in 1993, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley reported that only 2 cents of every $100 spent on pre-collegiate education in 1990 went to gifted programs. And the 1996 federal budget allocated $3 million for gifted education. We spend far more on education for children with disabilities than on children with gifts (Winner, 1996). Gifted children are usually bored and unengaged in school and therefore not reaching their potential (Winner, 1996). With the current trends to provide heterogeneous classrooms for all students educators are failing to meet the academic needs of the gifted children.Ability grouping has a long history that began as early as the 1960s (Sharpes, 1999). There are many forms of grouping, which can affect the consistency of research. For example, the most extreme form of ability grouping is tracking. Tracking involves placing students according to their general measure of academic ability and arranging students in tracks ranging from the highest to the lowest. The students remain in these homogenous tracks for all content areas. One difficulty with tracking is the inability of students to move from one track to another, disregarding any changes due to environmental, maturation, or instructional effectiveness or ineffectiveness (Borland, 2002). The academic and vocation tracks can often be found in secondary schools.Tracking now has a very negative connotation and has been banned in some jurisdictions as racially and economically discriminatory (Borland, 2002). The reasons for the controversy surrounding ability grouping are many. One has to do with the fact that ability grouping is a response to individual differences among students. Anything having to do with differences in ability, especially differences measured by standardized tests, elicits controversy (Borland, 2002). Socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, and gender are social concerns raised when discussing ability grouping. Poor children and children of color are disproportionately placed in low-ability groups early in their educational careers and in non-college bound groupings in junior high and high school. And although girls are placed in ability groups at all levels, the combination of teacher expectations and advising, along with other societal expectations, leaves girls in all tracks with reduced problem solving skills, few math and science courses, and lower self-esteem (Broussard, 1998). However, ability grouping may reflect trends in...

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