Sunday, July 13, 2008

Streaming within schools

Streaming is one of the most controvertial topics in teaching. I have heard the refrain, 'research does not support streaming' on many occassions only then to hear the benefits of ability grouping.

The social justice issue has clouded the merits of streaming for some time. Is it fair to group lower ability students and create unmanagable classrooms? I would suggest that the obvious counter to this question is that it is unfair to put students together where they can never feel true success. It is true that lower ability grouping require smaller class sizes and/or higher teacher student ratios, but these staffing requirements can be offset with larger academic class sizes without behaviour issues.

My opinion is that for too long we have overstated the social justice issue and forgotten that high performing students require the teaching time lost to managing poor behaviour of lower performing students.

Lower performing students need a different programme catering to their needs and in an environment that they can get attention not through disturbance but through academic success.

The problem with not streaming is that the main output of schools is streamed students - some streamed for university, others for TAFE and some for the workforce. The hard reality hits in year 11 where hiding in a classroom and performing at minimal levels becomes impossible and real grading occurs.

Maybe that's the topic of another blog.

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