Richard DuFour

Richard DuFour, EdD, was a public school educator for 34 years. A prolific author and sought-after consultant, he is recognized as one of the leading authorities on helping school practitioners implement the Professional Learning Communities at Work™ process.

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Grouping by abilities

To Ability Group or Not to Ability Group? That Is the Question!

Categories: PLC

From Richard DuFour and Rebecca DuFour:

At a recent PLC at WorkTM Institute that included over 1,500 educators representing 14 states, it became evident that ability grouping for homeroom placement and/or core content instruction remains a prevalent practice in many schools and districts. Students are divided into low, middle, and high groups (or tracks, levels, etc.) based on last year’s test scores and/or teacher recommendations. The institute faculty challenged this practice citing John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning, which concludes that ability grouping is a detrimental practice for students—one that ensures that some students will not learn at high levels. Ability grouping is clearly a practice that is misaligned with advancing the mission that PLC schools embrace—ensuring high levels of learning for all.

At least one team of elementary teachers at the institute was convinced that ability grouping was not in the best interest of students or teachers, not only because of the research but also because of their own experiences. They explained that ability grouping was an expected practice in their school and district. During the institute, members of this team interviewed different faculty members, read Hattie’s synthesis of the research, and asked for the name of a school to contact that could share a different approach to grouping students for instruction. We recommended they contact the educators at Mason Crest Elementary in Fairfax County, Virginia. Jennifer Deinhart, K–8 mathematics specialist at Mason Crest, provided the following timely response. Our hope is that schools of every level across the world will take Jennifer’s great insights to heart.

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