Lopez, Silveira support one-size-fits-none classrooms

From an article in The Capital Times by Susan Troller:

Noting that he grew up poor in a segregated school district, Lopez said firmly, “I don’t like segregating kids.” He said that there are real advantages for all students in classes that reflect the real world. He also said that he believes young people benefit from teaching to, and learning from, each other.
Silveira, who has an eighth-grade daughter and has been involved with school issues as a volunteer for almost a decade, agreed with Lopez.
“I’m a proponent of the heterogeneous classroom,” she said.

Heterogeneous classrooms mix students of all skill levels. For example, English 10 at West places non-readers and college-level readers in the same classroom.
While the board still investigates the appropriateness of one-size-fits-none, it’s disappointing to have two candidates whose minds are already made up.

27 thoughts on “Lopez, Silveira support one-size-fits-none classrooms”

  1. An important part of Arlene’s statement was left out by the author, possibly because the second part seems very reasonable,
    “But she said to make it work, you need very well-trained teachers so they can address the different levels in their classrooms, and that she would stress the importance of providing adequate resources.”
    Doesn’t sound like anyone’s mind has be “made up”. Rather, it seems like the best option for the district will be considered.

  2. Here is her statement from the MTI survey. Question 17
    17. Do you support the inclusion model for including Title 1, EEN and ESL students in the regular education classroom? Why/why not?
    Yes, I support the inclusion model as stated above if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. I believe inclusion maximizes individual growth and affords a sense of belonging to all involved. I once read, “Children that learn together, learn to live together”. That is the benefit of inclusion. I think inclusion is a philosophy that must be shared by the district, school and community members, if it is to work properly.
    I believe in order to have a strong inclusive program, there must be good communication between administration, staff and parents; there must be an adequate number of staff to handle a given classroom situation; staff must have appropriate training and resources to deliver a differentiated, yet challenging curriculum, so all children benefit.

  3. Mari, there are times where hetrogeneous classes don’t work for everyone even with the teacher differentiating. Some kids are either way ahead or way below. For instance how can a teacher meet the needs of children who are both learning their ABC’s sounds and letter recognition with kids in the same classroom who are reading/comprehending at a 8th-9th grade level. Don’t the children at the upper end deserve to also learn? In fact, isn’t it their right?

  4. Yes, it is their right and I, personally, have experienced this EXACT situation in our school, within the MMSD system. An awesome kindergarten teacher, who did indeed, have a range of children; one with great needs and another, yes…reading at an 8th grade level. He not only continued to be challenged, he engaged classmates to want to learn more!
    The classroom dynamic worked well, because of the teacher, staff and parents … communicating, working, understanding and learning together. I, personally believe that’s what we should be motivated to duplicate.

  5. Arlene’s record shows that she does not listen or communicate well. Again, I cite her leadership of the failed referendum and her anger at Lawrie Kobza, Ruth Robarts and others who expressed concern and voted no on the referendum. Her position on the referendum was a minority position, and she was angry when she lost.
    Arlene’s statement on heterogeneous classrooms has holes, holes, and more holes. For example, the MMSD won’t determine what’s in the best interest of students in West’s 10th grade English; all students go into English 10. Does Arlene have a plan for determining the best interest of each 10th grader? How will the plan be staffed and financed?
    How will Arlene provide “adequate number of staff to handle a given classroom situation” when teacher cuts are the primary financial managment tool used by the administration and majority she seeks to join? Does she have a plan to add staff?
    English 10 begins at West next fall. What are Arlene’s plans for staff to “have appropriate training and resources to deliver a differentiated curriculum” between now and next fall? What additional training does she propose for staff as she continues to promote heterogeneous classrooms? Who will provide the training? How will the district pay for the training with a shrinking budget?
    Poor communication happens when the rhetoric doesn’t reflect the real world.

  6. This topic is such a good one. I am so glad that this conversation is part of the discourse in this forum and in our schools. I believe that inclusion is a matter of social justice in our society and in our schools. Prior to teaching in the mmsd, I was a case manager for people with developmental disabilities. I saw first hand what happens to people who are labeled “not suitable to live in the community.” I worked with adults who were put into institutions at a very young age because they were “different, slow, retarded, and physically challenged.” I also worked at one of the last special education schools in Wisconsin. Our entire student body consisted of students with special needs. They were bussed from various communities so that they could be protected and not interfere with the education of the “normal” students. The students had a separate education what was not close to being equal to that of the other students.
    Our society is based upon the idea that all people can achieve and prosper. When we segregate our children based upon how they perform in a standardized test, we create a have and have-not society. We have seen the effects of tracking and labeling children during the civil rights movement and we are seeing it again in our society. It is time for us all to take a deep breath and ask ourselves, “Would I want my child to be labeled at a young age to be put in the “Free and Reduced lunch SAGE room?” -as has been suggested in other threads of this blog. I would not what that for my child, or for any child.
    The task to differentiate for a heterogeneous group of students is not an easy one. There are days when I leave school wondering how I will meet the needs of all of my students. The number one thing that has helped has been the lower class sizes due to SAGE. The difference is remarkable. Thankfully, the district, Arlene, and Juan have made a commitment to SAGE. Lower class sizes in the elementary school have not yet been around long enough for the middle and high school’s to see the benefits. It will take time. It is a struggle, but with long-term benefits for our children.
    Finally, I will tell a story of a group of fifteen first grade students I had a couple of years ago. They were the most kind and generous group that I have ever had in my teaching career. They treated each other, teachers, parent volunteers, and school staff with such respect and kindness. I was trying to figure out why this group, in particular, was so unique. I attribute their kindness to one of my student’s who had a developmental disability and used a wheelchair to get around school. They had been with her in kindergarten. They learned compassion, kindness, and respect for others- none of which are part of the standardized tests.
    Education is not ONLY about learning content material with other people who are just like you, it is also about how to live in a heterogeneous society. It is not easy, but anything that is worthwhile usually isn’t.

  7. Oh…that’s right, I apologize, as I was corrected earlier to, “Please remember that this is a blog, not a political campaign attack forum.”
    Arlene’s leadership skills are not lacking as the success of the company for which she works continues to grow and expand. As well, Arlene’s abilities to listen, communicate, and facilitate with many in the community can be witnessed in person as she is actually “in the phone book” and made herself available at various community events and a wide array of school events throughout the district.
    I had the opportunity to witness her professionalism at the Souper – Bowl event at West High earlier this year.
    I am one of her supporters who speak highly of her, and not, by *personally* condemning her opponent. I have taken the time to know Arlene, discuss ideals and differences and listen to the debates.
    The ‘minority’ is a subjective term. The referenda failed and frustration in the “lack of a solution” was expressed by many. Everyone has the right to vote, but when there is no alternative plan proposed at the time, community frustration is justified. Interesting how it takes 1 full year to focus on a district plan rather than having taken the time last year…now we are where we are…and Memorials attendance area is worse.
    It is not trust that the board lacks…it is RESPECT for one another. A facilitator is needed.
    Proposed… an interesting discussion for funding as well. In listening to the video of the candidates at the TAG parent forum (prior to the primary), my interest was peaked when candidates offered to double the budget before actually looking at the MMSD budget and what is needed. I don’t know how we as a district will continue to offer all the various programs and where all the funding will come from when, I guess, we are to move beyond blaming the state laws and focus on our current situation which is an annual deficit.
    Arlene says its time to start the discussion for a solution

  8. Ed, I don’t think you can “blame” Arlene for the failed referendum. Just months before the board mentioned that it might need to close some schools. Yes, Fitchburg did say no to the referendum, but many of the families who live in this area are in private schools, or homeschooling. Often they decided against Leopold because of the size.
    West is using a grant they received for the SLC in order to “train” teachers.
    I am also not sure what Troy is talking about “adequate number of staff”, my gut feeling he is stating that there should be enough special ed support to allow special ed kids to be able to be mainstreamed in the classroom. People forget that those who are at the upper end may need support also.
    My concern is when I look at English 10, how is a teacher going to be able to meet the needs of the children who is reading/comprehending at a 4th-6th grade level and the children who are reading/comprehending/and have the vocabulary of upper college level students. What kind of “discussions” are they going to all be engaged in when discussing Othello.
    I believe it is the teacher’s job to keep kids engaged, not the students. In the first few years kids can be excited to help others learn. But after a while,say by 2nd-3rd grade kids get tired of this and become turned off from “teaching others” all the time.
    I truly have seen some of the best teachers in the district unable to reach every child’s needs because of the wide level of needs.
    Troy, silly question, but you teach Spanish students. I know you work with other teachers on getting your kids with english speaking kids. Do all ELL students at Leopold follow the “inclusion model”? I know at one time they were not. And when are ELL students get placed full time into the english speaking classrooms?
    I feel that the problem is that many people feel that the upper end kids will be fine. The problem is, how many of these kids drop out either in high school or college because they freek out because they are handed something challenging and schools have never taught them how to deal with challenging curriculum. Suicide numbers are also very high in situations like this. I personally would rather see high school kids get a B and be challenged than to have straight A’s because of easy classes.
    I still will believe that the best teachers in the nation will not be able to reach every child’s needs. Yes, teachers are able to help 15 kids better than 24 kids. But for teachers who are not teaching in a K-3 classrooms, don’t get the benefits of working with fewer kids and still have the large span of academic levels.
    Troy, you talk about the benefits for the stuggling student who is in hetrogeneous classrooms. And with aides, this is possible. And in 1st grade, having the special ed kids mainstreamed does make sense. What about the child who is multiplying/dividing double and triple digits, can do powers, fractions, and decimal points. Could you meet this child’s needs in your classroom at the same time you have a child who is very slow? What about when this child is in 4th grade and allowed to continue his learning, truly will this child’s needs be when the class size is up to 24-28? How would you deal with a kid like this?

  9. Ed, I have to tell you over the years I have also emailed Juan Lopez and I never received responses from him either. I do quesition if he “represents” the citizens of the district when he doesn’t communicate with them.

  10. It amazes me that people still feel that kids of all ability levels can be in the same classroom.
    I looked at West’s website, and there is a class for 9th graders in English that “Emphasizes the skills taught in English 9 with modifications for skill deficits in basic language arts. Generally for students with a 4th grade or below reading level or whose social/emotional needs are unable to be met in regular education”.
    There is also “Algebraic Concepts for ELL students – Through the use of manipulatives and textbook exercises, this course gives the ESL student practice in basic arithmetic skills, concepts, and math language skills. The course also introduces the student to a variety of topics which some topics which are included in Algebra I”. Which I assume would be considered their Algebra course.
    Yet, for that 4th grader who is ready for English 9, there is nothing for him. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that it is important to mainstream children and that it is important that everyone gets a good education. My concern is that if a child is truly ahead by a great deal (I don’t mean just a year ahead) in curriculum don’t get needs met except for math starting in middle school is the only place where needs are somewhat being met.
    We want all kids to succeed. Not all kids will succeed if not given a chance. If West doesn’t feel that a child who is reading 5 grades below will not succeed in English 9, why do they feel that a child who reads 5 grades above will. A child who has the intellect of a college graduate or a professor, isn’t going to be able to have great discussions with someone who has the intellect of a 5th grader. I don’t mean to sound snobby, this is reality in the hetrogeneous courses of English 9 and next year of English 10. And we expect to have a teacher have expectations for both levels of children in writing? How can you give grades to this diverse group. You want both groups to be challenged and learn. A teacher can’t reach all the needs of these kids in one class. Someone is going to be left out. In high school, grades matter for college. The teacher can only have a certain level of standard so it is in the range of the majority. Is it fair to assume that the lower kid is going to automatically receieve nothing above a C? To me, this is either setting up the strugglers to fail, or forgetting the high flyers. I don’t care how good the teacher is, someone’s needs will not be met.
    Mari, I believe people from the board and district have worked at trying to get legislation to change state laws. I remember Carol Carstenson talking just this year about trying to work with the legislation on removing the revenue caps. But Dane County is a high income level overall. Go to some of these smaller districts, or even Milwaukee, and see what they can afford to pay for school revenue. You have farmers who are selling their properties that have been in the family for 150 years because they can’t afford farming anymore. You have elderly people across the district who are on a fixed income but want to keep living in the home that they have had for 40 years. School districts are a business. And just like a private company, you have to do with what you have. You also need people who are willing to look at creative solutions and even be willing to question those who are “the experts”. I taking my father to the doctor and him telling me that he had the beginning stages of alzheimers. This was a blow. But guess what, 3 days later another doctor told me that this wasn’t the case. So, if I listened to the first doctor, I should have put him in an institution or moved him into my home right away. I did my homework and found out that the “expert” was completely wrong. There is nothing wrong with questioning the “experts” and getting 2nd opinions, and I would expect the board should do the same thing. Why have a board who rubber stamps everything.
    To be honest, I wouldn’t want the thankless job to be on the school board. It is a daunting task. I think that everyone running has their pros and cons, and the citizens of the district will vote for those who seem to be willing to meet the needs of where they want the district to go.
    I am sure Maya and Lucy also support SAGE. I feel that anyone is going to say which is better, 15-1 or 28-1, they would support SAGE. The problem I see is that the district gets money to operate SAGE programs, but has to pick up the remander of the tab in order to fully fund a program like this. There needs to be a way of running a SAGE program, without the extra tax burden. Special Ed, which is federally mandated, has found a way to help ease the costs by having less special ed certified teachers and having kids cross categorical under one teacher’s direction. They have also gotten more aides to work with kids vs. those who are trained to work with these kids. A lot of our “experienced” teachers are certified to teach LD, CD, or ED. There are different strategies to helping different types of kids. Unfortunately, I feel that the kids and their families are the ones who are short changed by this change. I don’t feel that those who have special needs are getting their needs met either. I remember one time where an aide was suppose to help a group of kids learn to divide and guess what, she asked me as a volunteer to work with them because she herself didn’t know how to do it. People are fooling themselves if they really think that hetrogeneous classrooms work for everyone.

  11. Nearly all kids know who the smart kids are, and from very early on there is some inevitable separating of the bright, average and below average kids, whether it’s within a classroom or not. It’s great to have these kids all playing and learning together as much as possible, but let’s not kids ourselves that the kids don’t know who’s smart and who’s not. They know that about as well as they know who they’d pick on their basketball team. It’s the adults who have a problem with it.
    At some point, generally late in elementary school, but certainly by middle school, there is tremendous peer pressure on kids to conform to a social norm of the peer group the child most identifies with. Depending upon the peers, that pressure can be to excel academically, to downplay or hide those gifts, or in upteen ways to take emphasis off academic excellence. If the peer group is of similarly gifted kids, pressure to excel will be higher.
    By fourth or fifth grades those gifted kids had better be identified and directed to separate programs and classrooms, or you are abetting the waste of their promise. And the promise of minority and poor kids are what gets wasted the most.

  12. To reference the Board of Education Legislative committee meetings for the past 3 years:
    I think I counted 6 or 7 meetings.
    From the MMSD website, the Legislative committee focuses on government issues including local, state and federal issues effecting education. The idea Carol had I believe was discussed at a general meeting of the entire board.

  13. Yes, English Language Learners who are newcomers are segregated for parts of the day. But, the ultimate goal is for them to be a part of the mainstream classroom. All of the studies have shown that pulling children from the general education classroom is the least effective way for children to learn English. Newcomers benefit the most from pull-out. But the decision is based upon the needs of the child. What we are trying to do at Leopold is to develop a collaborative model of providing support to children to special needs, where grade-level teachers co-teach with ESL/EEN/Title 1/bilingual teachers. We will always have some students who need some pull-out needs, but the goal is inclusion. Hopefully one day we will be able to dismantle the pull-out rooms in the old library and make it into a space that is attractive and conducive to learning. Also, about the book shelves that are nice and not hand-me-downs from the SWAP shop, they were paid for by a grant we received a few years ago. And, sorry about the jackets on the floor. I will work on that.

  14. Education4u, I believe the board has not rubber stamped everything. The public has had an opportunity to participate this past school year more than they ever have in the past. Healthy discussions mean a healthy BOE and community.
    For precisely the reasons you mention, I believe the system is broke. My alumni high school of River Valley is an excellent example. I know that school funding has changed drastically in just the last 10 years and it’s not working for anyone, including districts in Dane County.
    As well, I agree that schools can operate with business savvy. Arlene’s experience and professional training are well suited for just that obstacle. At the same time however, I can not, off the top of my head, think of a private business that is growing, taking in new customers and told to operate efficiently and effectively by cutting the operating budget each year. Programs, no matter what they are, cost money and yet, year after year employees are suppose to take a pay cut, diminish their self worth in society and lose their jobs all the while our product is to continue, to consistently, be everything to everyone as well as rank among the best in the nation…????

  15. Marisue,
    You said, “I don’t know how we as a district will continue to offer all the various programs and where all the funding will come from” for meeting Arlene’s proposals for heterogeneous classrooms. Does Arlene know?

  16. Ed,
    Once again, out of context. To quote my statment:
    I don’t know how we as a district will continue to offer all the various programs and where all the funding will come from when, I guess, we are to move beyond blaming the state laws and focus on our current situation which is an annual deficit.
    Arlene says its time to start the discussion for a solution.

  17. Marisue,
    Sorry about taking your statement out of context. Let me just re-ask my question on the immediate topic. How does Arlene propose to pay for the suggestions she made to make heterogeneous classrooms work?

  18. Actually Ed, the initial topic was your assumption that “it’s disappointing to have two candidates whose minds are already made up”
    To answer this immediate question, you would assume I speak for the candidate. I speak only for myself and why I support Arlene. My discussion was to point out that her vision includes circumstances that need to be fulfilled and that she is always available for discussion and communicating with the public at large before committing to a final decision.

  19. Marisue,
    I have not found Arlene to be willing to talk. Immediately after the referendum, I called her and suggested that we talk. We both agreed that we’d let the dust settle for a while, then we’d be back in touch. A couple of weeks later, much to your credit, you tried to arrange a meeting between me, Don Seversen, yourself, Arlene, and Beth Zurbuchen. Only you, Don, and I showed up for the meeting. So much for Arlene being available for “discussion and communicating.”

  20. Troy, so am I correct at assuming that ELL students are now treated the same if they are spanish students or say french students. The kids are now mixed within the regular classrooms with Bi-Lingual/ESL/and special ed students pulled out only when needed similar to special ed and TAG students where years ago? This means that you would not have a “class” so to say, but are more of a case manager for the spanish kids?
    I remember years ago when bilingual classes began, all the ELL spanish students where grouped together by age in a classroom, where their day was totally in Spanish except for specials. The child who say spoke french was immursed immediately into an english speaking classroom.
    I realize that it is a case by case situation, but when are most kids you have with english speaking kids for most of the day? What areas do you find they need the teaching in their native language the most?

  21. Regarding Mari’s earlier quote “But she said to make it work, you need very well-trained teachers so they can address the different levels in their classrooms, and that she would stress the importance of providing adequate resources.” — A huge problem in the MMSD is that there is no mechanism to get rid of poorly trained and/or motivated teachers (either because of the teachers’ union or lack of will of the administration). How can extra money help if it goes equally to teachers regardless of their quality?
    With our 3 kids we have experienced the whole spectrum of teacher quality – absolutely fantastic through mediocre to dreadful. Specifically on the differentiation issue, in first grade one of our twins had an outstanding teacher who handled her mixed 1st/2nd grade classroom adroitly, while the other had probably the worst teacher we have ever encountered. (With 2 kids it’s much harder to push for great teachers for both…)
    Sadly, it seems that the main rewards for the outstanding teachers are intangibles like their own senses of satisfaction, student and parental gratitude, etc. And for teachers who aren’t able or motivated to handle differentiation, there doesn’t seem to be much disincentive, since they still collect the same salary based on years of service.
    Given this situation, I would argue that expecting heterogeneous classrooms to generally work well in Madison is unrealistic.

  22. Mari wrote:
    “As well, I agree that schools can operate with business savvy. Arlene’s experience and professional training are well suited for just that obstacle. At the same time however, I can not, off the top of my head, think of a private business that is growing, taking in new customers and told to operate efficiently and effectively by cutting the operating budget each year.”
    Programs, no matter what they are, cost money and yet, year after year employees are suppose to take a pay cut, diminish their self worth in society and lose their jobs all the while our product is to continue, to consistently, be everything to everyone as well as rank among the best in the nation…????”
    First, when has MMSD asked (much less demanded or required) anyone take a pay cut?
    Secondly, this is another example of where the business model of running public schools (or any other public sector service provider) breaks down. In the private sector many, many companies are doing exactly what Mari appears to be horrified by. Businesses look to increase profits and one way to do this is to increase productivity and use fewer workers. Another way is to get give backs on wages and benefits from workers. The QEO law and makes the latter difficult (although it may come to that, certainly growth in these areas is something that needs to be looked at) and most people don’t look to increasing class size and demanding more “productivity” from teachers as a way to improve the schools.
    I’m not saying that financial savvy isn’t a good idea in school governance, but the idea can be pushed too far. I don’t want the schools run like a business and more importantly, they can’t be run like business. They aren’t about profit and loss, they are about who we are as a society about trying to make a better future.
    I’m a historian and in the Progressive era the application of business methods to education brought two important, related developments in school governance that we are still feeling the effects of. First, professional educators convinced many that they and they alone should make educational decisions. Second, reformers defined the role of the school board as providing business expertise and efficiency and giving deference to the professionals in all other matters. What was lost was a sense of democratic control of the schools and with that loss also (eventually) came a loss of sense of public ownership and faith in the schools. You can see some of the results of this in current school board campaigns, in the failed referenda.
    One last historical note: This same quest for efficient business methods also led to attempts to deskill and reduce the freedoms, salaries and standing of teachers. They were simply to follow the orders from the experts above. Some for-profit charters are doing exactly that today. From what I can tell, that’s not what Mari or most of us want. I know I don’t.

  23. Judy,
    We still have the bilingual classrooms. They are now paired with the general education classrooms to offer the students opportunities to use and learn academic English. Some things like Science and Social studies are taught together. While the students are learning English, they are taught the basic Literacy and Mathematics in their first language. The child is placed in a bilingual or general education classroom based upon their academic language proficiency. All of the general education classes also receive Spanish instruction three times a week. (That is something new from when your children were at Leopold.) Leopold has a partnership with the University of Wisconsin Spanish student-teacher program. A child who came to the states would receive instruction within the general education program with the assistance of an ESL teacher. We have an esl teacher who actually speaks French, so while the child is learning English, the esl teacher would use French to assist the child to learn English.

  24. Thanks Troy, I am glad that the ELL program is going this way. I quess my French analogy was wrong, I thought that would be one that wasn’t done. You got me there.

  25. It is a fallacy to claim that heterogeneous grouping benefits all students. Research has consistently shown that high ability students learn more and achieve more when they are in classes with like ability peers. This research shows that the benefits of ability grouping are even stronger for high-ability black and Hispanic youth. Furthermore, the performance of the remaining students in heterogeneous classes does not suffer when the high ability students are removed from the classroom. In fact, some research suggests that lower achieving students actually have increased achievement when these students are removed from the regular classroom. For a summary of this research, see http://tagparents.org/grouping.html

  26. Thank you for bringing some actual data to the discussion, Jeff. Far too often what is really being argued is social engineering, proceeding from the false assumption that each student is plastic enough to be molded into a National Merit finalist.
    As a society, we don’t kid ourselves that star athletes bring a combination of raw talent and dedication to their success, but we are uncomfortable with acknowledging that some people are inherently more talented academically. It doesn’t necessarily follow that they’ll be more successful in life, especially in my view, if they’re asked to underperform in the public school system.
    My children are in private colleges. They are surrounded by peers who are the product of AP and accelerated learning, kids with a passion for learning. It’s life after MMSD parents should be thinking about.
    I hear the arguments about this being a diverse world and the advantages MMSD students will have for their school experience. That’s another faulty premise. Believe me, law firms and medical practices are not peopled by folks who weren’t reading at grade level in high school.
    I also applaud your efforts to identify and help disenfranchised TAG students, Jeff. That’s the real problem, not that some students have more raw talent than others, but that many low-income and minority gifted students buy out or are missed by the system.
    What also worries me is that the one-size-fits-none approach advocated by Lopez and Silveira really will end up turning off more TAG kids. Success is a combination of talent and motivation. I think what TAG parents are warning is that curricular decisions like West’s English 9 & 10 will not challenge the high achievers and will actually lead to their turn-off.
    What’s the motivation behind heterogeneous groupings–is it the fantasy that the real world doesn’t recognize and reward differences in talent, creativity and motivation? As one of the earlier posters here noted, kids know who the smart classmates are, just like they know who the good athletes are. It’s only some adults who want to pretend otherwise.

  27. Hetrogeneous classes are for the adults. Think about it, all 4th grade teachers would teach the same thing. I have actually heard teachers state that it isn’t fair that teacher X got all the top kids. Now what am I going to do? Our society has a hard time with labels. We struggle if we are not on “top”, or labeled “last”. We have all used the words “bright”, “smart”,”gifted”, “dumb” and “stupid”. All these words send messages.
    When people hear others requesting “homogeneous” classes or advanced classes, a lot of adults remember special ed. from the old days where kids with special needs where sent to “special schools”, or in “special” classes. They were segregated from the main population of age peers.
    People who have been on this forum have not been saying they want the bright students segregated all day long. They are saying they would like children who catch onto things quickly to be allowed to learn quickly and continuously in their area of strengths, just like kids who are stuggling maybe pulled out in areas of their weaknesses (Ex. Reading Recovery). Often, gifted kids think differently, have different interests from the main society, and vocabulary is extremely large. Heterogeneous classrooms don’t allow kids to be themselves. In a homogeneous class, they are able to use the vocabulary they are comfortable with, discuss a story that is more at their level, work on high level math, or discuss more indepth WWII. It is important that these kids are grouped together so they realize there are others like them. I have seen children “grouped” together based on strengths, and unfortunately, the curriculum isn’t any different than the regular classrooms. Kids are not challenged just because they are grouped together, the curriculum also needs to change. This is where our education system fails. A child who is learning quickly needs and desires more. They want to go more indepth on the subjects. These children generally don’t need more drills, they need to go to the next level. Maybe a child works with high end kids for math, but not for english, or social studies. Maybe a child needs to be placed with high end kids for all core academics, but then can be put in hetrogeneous classes for specials.
    As I have said before, homogeneous classes are as important for self esteem as hetrogeneous classes. I have personally seen my child have a low self esteem because she felt that teachers didn’t understand that she needed to go to the next level of challenge and was tired of not learning new curriculum. When she was placed in advanced classes, the self-esteem went up over night, so I will never agree that hetrogeneous classes can met everyone’s needs even with the best teachers because we had some of the “best teachers” and some understood her but were not able to get materials to her level, and others truly didn’t understand her or her needs.

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