Sunday, June 19, 2011


From hits on previous pages, this is an active topic in teaching.  Leaving teaching college, we were all informed of the negative nature of streaming and how research showed that there was no benefit to students.   As discussed previously Hattie's extensive research showed that the benefit was small in mathematics.  Yet teachers of mathematics continue the demand for streaming and respond with extensive anecdotal evidence that shows otherwise.

Like many mathematics teachers I now agree with the anecdotal evidence.  If we don't stream, the average effect for all students is probably the same or better than streaming.  This, for catholic schools is a sensible position, where the rights of the individual can be compromised for the rights of the whole.

Yet, contrariwise, streaming has a detrimental effect on our top students as behavioural and academic requirements of the next tier, take away required teaching time, curriculum focus and effort from the top tier of students.  Only a small percentage of experienced teachers can prevent this effectively.  My observation is that top students, in an environment of top students, excel in a way that they cannot in heterogenous classes, especially in senior school when maturity kicks in.  It is not such a problem in higher SES schools as the gap between higher and lower performing students is much smaller.  It makes little sense not to stream in state schools as in upper school our marketing is driven by the performance of our elite (eg in league tables and media reporting) rather than by performing social good (as is the drive in other education sectors).

In low SES public schools, it also raises an equity position, as the brighter students are negatively effected by students that have no wish, need or demand for higher education.  For a considerable time, looking after our high performing students has been difficult as demands for average results has driven teaching away from the demands of excellence.  Furthermore, the retaining of ill suited students into traditional upper school classes has had a detrimental effect whilst schools devise suitable courses and exit points for these students.

At the other end of the spectrum it also raises equity issues for underperforming students that have little or no hope of meeting C grade standards (without help beyond that which is typically available in a heterogenous classroom).

It is a shame that this is not as readily recognised, as it is only from a drive for excellence does the majority have an aspirational goal and those in direst need receive the attention they require.

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