Tomorrow night at the Curriculum & Program Committee we’ll be hearing several items of interest in the current middle school debate: strategies for serving high-achievers and parent perspectives on middle school quality.
Serving high-achievers in middle school: Originally, I had asked staff to present a report on the various strategies we use to serve high-achievers, the research behind them, and the guidance, if any, we give sites as far as accelerated programming, ability grouping, and tracking to serve students of varying academic preparation and ability. Unfortunately, several key staff members will not be available tomorrow, so instead we’ll start the discussion with a short staff presentation, and hopefully hear from members of the public with perspectives and questions on this issue. As a result, we’ll have to return to the topic later in the year, but it will be helpful to have specific input and questions from the public and the board to shape the discussion. In the meantime, I’ve received this survey of programs at various middle schools; the K-8 schools serve students in heterogeneous groupings without specific “honors-only” programming. I’ve also been doing a bit of research on my own with respect to programs for truly gifted students; from the little I’ve read it seems clear that the two strands of conventional wisdom in our middle school debate (students must be tracked by ability vs. students can be served in heterogeneous classrooms with no additional resources or training for teachers) are both wrong. If you are interested in exploring this topic further with an open mind, start here:
- Research-based resources from the Neag Center for Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut;
- Mind the Other Gap 2010 study from the Indiana University Center on Evaluation and Education Policy; and
- Ability Grouping Research Reviews: What Do They Say About the Gifted? 1991 article in Educational Leadership by Susan Demirsky Allan, an educator and acknowledged expert in differentiated classrooms.
Parent perspectives on quality middle schools: A panel of PAC and PPS members will be on hand to share a variety of perspectives on quality middle schools after participating in the community engagement survey earlier this year.
The Curriculum Committee will meet tomorrow (June 6) starting at 5 pm in the Boardroom.