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Total School Cluster Grouping


 
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lgmtseawa
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PostPosted: April 20 2010, 8:49 PM    Post subject:
Total School Cluster Grouping
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Does anyone have any experience with this? It appears to be a semi-newish methodology out of Purdue. The research seems primarily concerned with gifted students, but our elementary is about to put it in place for everyone.

Wondering if anyone has had experience with it, and especially with kids with Down syndrome.

thanks,
Carolyn

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Momtoseven
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PostPosted: April 20 2010, 8:57 PM    Post subject:
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I think we have this in our area, but I am not sure if it is the same thing. Is it where they take kids in different grades and teach them together based on their abilities? I may be way off here - I tried to google it, but had trouble understanding what is actually done.

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lgmtseawa
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PostPosted: April 20 2010, 9:08 PM    Post subject:
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I'm not entirely sure how it will play out in our school. The research all seems to have to do with gifted kids, but the email sprung on us today said it's for everyone. Here's how the principal described it briefly:

"Students are categorized into five groups: high achieving (HA), above average (AA), average (A), low average (LA), and low (L). Students are then assigned to classes that are created so no teacher has students in all five of the groups. This reduces the 'spread' of student ability within a classroom so teachers aren't creating so many separate plans for instruction."

It didn't sound like they would necessarily have the three groups be continguous (one example was to have HA, A, and LA together), but only fewer just to reduce the load on the teacher.

I just feel like this was sprung on us and could affect Kyle differently than typical kids... and then to find out that the research it's based on is specifically aimed at gifted... (not that there's anything wrong with giving the gifted the challenges that THEY need, just that what works for them may not be the right thing for my kiddo)... and right while we are in the middle of his IEP transition to Kindergarten.

If it helps, the researchers to look for are Marcia Gentry and Rebecca Mann of Purdue.

The descriptions on the web do seem all over the place... I am waiting for Gentry or Mann to return my email about it (I wrote to them researcher to researcher Smile to see if they've actually assessed how well the program works for kids with cognitive disabilities -- I'm not taking our principal's word for it, esp. since she didn't even have the right phrase for it.

C

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SherryinWI
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PostPosted: April 21 2010, 7:28 AM    Post subject:
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It is almost like reverse mainstream. I think it is fine to abiiity group for math and reading instruction but even the gifted student has lots to learn from his peers who are not gifted...KWIM? I think classes that are balanced with students from all abilities are just that....balanced! How do parents feel with having their neurotypical child as average or below average or low? Most want their kids to be above average just like Prarie Home Companion.

I am interested in seeing the research.

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lgmtseawa
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PostPosted: April 24 2010, 12:44 PM    Post subject:
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Here's the reply I received from one of the two researchers:

Total School Cluster Grouping is a model designed to help general classroom teachers better meet the academic needs of all children. In it the range of achievement level of children that each teacher teaches is narrowed, with every classroom still having students who achieve at above average levels, and special needs students placed according to their IEPs. Further all teachers receive training on the use of gifted education pedagogy and talent development, with the philosophy of the model and the focus of instruction aimed at developing the interests and strengths of all students. The model simply helps teachers better differentiate their curriculum and instruction for the readiness and skill levels of their students.

Our research results show that over time, fewer students are identified as low achieving, more students are identified as high achieving and achievement test scores increase. In addition, students from traditionally underserved populations, over time, are more likely to be recognized as high-achieving.

In all of our project and study schools, special needs students exist, and the model stipulates that their needs be addressed in placement and in assistance (should they be part of general classrooms, depending on their services) be provided to the classroom teacher in addressing their special needs. If they take achievement tests along with other students, then their results are analyzed to determine effects of the model.

Fortunately, for your son, IDEA and special education laws ensure that his special needs will be addressed in schools with levels of services rarely seen by gifted children.[emphasis mine]

Downs syndrome is not my area of research, but this model will not affect services in place for any special needs students, and likely will cause meaningful conversations about which classroom, which teacher and which circumstances will be optimal for your son.

I have attached a list of references of related research on the model.

Because of its positive effects on all children, we have been selected for a five-year national scale up study that is currently taking place in 110 schools across the country. I can assure you that our work in no way is detrimental to students with disabilities.


The last paragraph seems to me to confirm what I was starting to suspect; they've already been trying to expand to entire schools a program originally meant (I think) to extract the gifted from regular classes; they've done some small scale testing of this idea, and now are expanding it into larger testing, and our school (along with 4 others in the district) are part of their study.

The paragraph I've bolded really strikes me wrong... it seems to me like they just assume that the services our children get through their IEPs (which we all know in many places are inadequate) are enough for our kids; it really seems like our kids are an afterthought.

I haven't had a chance to look at her list of research yet; I had explicitly asked for citations of papers in which they talked about how this program affects those with cognitive disabilities [For instance, how their achievement tests results are analyzed to determine the effects of the model, which they claim to have done], but instead she appears to have sent the long list of "here's how great our program is" -- and it's a lot of papers to dig through to find where they might have mentioned how kids with cognitive delays might have fared.

You know, I could be wrong; it may well be that this model works for our kids too. I just wish everyone involved would be more forthcoming about it and not so patronizing and "of course it'll be great for them too" and "your kids already get great services" and all.

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scout66
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PostPosted: April 25 2010, 3:44 PM    Post subject:
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Hi Carolyn!

I didn't know you were on here (even though you have never met me-your husband has a couple of months ago at our local Ds meeting. lol!) I am crazy worried about this plan, too. Chase does not go to our home school yet (he's still at TT's), but it is our intention to have him go there. I sent an email to the principal letting her know how dissappointed I was that this is just being sprung on us with NO discussion and that it was such a flip email with NO information or resources sited. I posed my questions and concerns to her via email for not only Chase, but for my boys benefit and this was the response I received...three days after I sent the email:

Thanks for the email. I would be more than happy to answer your questions – but to be honest, I won’t have time to give them justice till over the weekend. I would also be happy to set up a time to meet, and then if you have follow up questions, we can address those too. If you want to meet – go ahead and call my secretary Debbie and she can set up a time for us.

Thanks for being patient!



I expressed my concern to Brendan's teacher (whom we LOVE!) and this was her response (she gave more information that the prinicpal did!) The start of her response was to a question about the Questionnare they sent home for next year's teacher/friend request and learning style of your child. There was aline that had all of this identifiers of how kids would be placed but it did not specify grade/age. One of my concerns is that the classes all remain the same with the kids in with their peers in this new model.

Yes, they mean within grade level. Basically, it means that there will not be a class of all kids who are learning at the same level, at the same gender, etc. The clustering is more so that the range of students is not spread over 5 levels of learning but rather 4 levels, so it groups kids just a tiny bit more than what we did last year – mostly to cluster the kids performing 2-4 grade levels above together so the teacher can meet their needs as well as those who need extra support in subject areas. In my opinion, classes next year will not look different than what we have had in the past. If a child has special needs, they would still have kids performing above average in their class with them and thus serve as a good role model in the truest sense of inclusion. Does this make sense?

I understand this is an IB World school, but that does not make them a Charter school and I sort of feel like that is how they are trying to operate. I don't feel that Chase's needs will be met and that they will only meet the needs of his IEP and disregard anything else (like the ever-so-important learning from his peers). I am worried and I don't think the prinicpal is going to give real answers and that she is going to play politician rather than advocate for fair education for ALL of her students. *sigh*

I will continue to follow your thread and hope we can get some real answers and real research that supports both the typical and IEP populations.

Linda

PS-I live right of the street from you!! Smile

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lgmtseawa
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PostPosted: April 25 2010, 4:50 PM    Post subject:
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Linda,
what a great looking bunch of boys you have!

Joel remembers telling me he met you at that meeting. Don't remember why I wasn't there that time... I've missed a few (sick once; a funeral this last time)... sigh.

We are also having issues getting him the amount of services we think he needs for Kindergarten. Maybe by the time yours gets there, either they'll have a better clue or we'll have abandoned ship.

What I would really like to see with this Total School Cluster Grouping thing is a response from researchers whose area of interest IS cognitive disabilities, especially Down syndrome. I don't think people who focus on the gifted have any clue what works for our kids. So I don't have a good feeling one way or the other about how this would work for our kids. I think that the SIT decided to look into it (there was the briefest mention in the Feb newsletter) and become one of the pilot schools (read, guinea pig -- and mind you, as a researcher myself, I KNOW that you have to try these things out and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, and you don't know until you test it), and now that they've committed, of course politically they have to support it. I am really not at all certain that any of their research will address the issues you and I have, or if so, it will be very cursory.

I've got access to the online Down Syndrome Research journal; I think I may have to pull up a few names and do the researcher to researcher email again. See if any of the people who are experts in Down syndrome issues know anything about this.

FWIW, our advocate from the ACL is very skeptical of this program as well; again, because for the most part not very many people really know what this is about.

Since we are down the street, we really ought to get together sometime!
(ps, if you send me your private email, or I can figure out how to send you stuff, I'll forward you the stuff *I've* gotten from the principal and from our advocate on it...)

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SherryinWI
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PostPosted: April 27 2010, 10:23 AM    Post subject:
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I know the complaint on many forums for the gifted students is that their needs are not being met and they have this grass is greaner on the otherside for those children with disabilities. I am curious just what percentage of children at this elementary school with each grade is working in all areas several grade levels above? Is it a huge school? How do the parents of non-gifted children view this clustering...do they think it is better for the childs needs to be met? Where does a child fall who is an advanced and gifted learner for reading and such but has a math disability??? There will also be those students who fit more than one ability in different areas. Learning can be quite asynchronous in development. I know thinking is really different for those kids that are way out there....they just look at the world differently but there are also difference between a child with a 130 IQ to 140 IQ to 150 IQ. How far do we differentiate. Children who are gifted come with their own quirkiness and often social issues. They need to be able to interact and learn to be social just like our children on the opposite end of the bell curve. If they want to pull out all the gifted and lump them into one or two classrooms for the whole school then I think we are going backwards. If a child is functioning so far ahead of a class then grade acceleration needs to be looked at or placing a child in a private school just geared for Gifted learners.

Sorry to ramble...it may look good on paper and appease those parents who have Gifted students but I worry about self esteem, confidence, and ultimately labeling a child when labels are not necessary. My daughter struggles with math and attention issues....would she be placed in the lower cluster grouping? Yet she reads several levels above grade level and is an advanced reader...by placing her in a classroom that was labeled lower would she really advance in math to move her up...would this be motivation enough. Or would it reinforce to her that she is no good at math and she is not a good student. How would this affect all her other subjects?

Interesting and I hope you continue to share. I am rather open to knew thinking....I don't like the statement that our children are protected by IDEA...hate having that shoved in our faces.

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