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What is "ability grouping?"   |   Title VI* requires evaluation of ability grouping practices

Title VI* requires evaluation of ability grouping practices
*Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Mpls issues list
Subj:      [Mpls] Title VI requires evaluation of ability grouping practices
Date:     9/28/2004 3:41:21 PM Central Daylight Time

Mark Anderson notes that 9th grade students at Bancroft are assigned to math classes according to an assessment of what they can do, correctly calls that "ability grouping," and says that "ability grouping" is a good idea. (see my post entitled "What is abilty grouping")

The district has a duty to monitor and evaluate the effects of its ability grouping practices, and should make relevant data accessible to the public, including mobility of students between high and low-level courses in every grade level, and a breakdown of test scores (e.g., growth in reading and math), attendance, and disciplinary actions by reading and math class assignments in grades K-12 (e.g., students in a highest, lowest and intermediate level courses for the whole year), and placement in gifted and talented programs. (see the
quote with footnotes from a US Civil rights commission report on ability grouping, subheading "Title VI Compliance Standards" in "What is ability-grouping?")    

The curriculum content standards for English language arts, reading and writing, grades K-6 (published in 1997) directs MPS Teachers to assign students to separate instructional groups for reading. And since 1997 MPS teachers have been encouraged to team teach K-3 students, which includes the reassignment of
K-3 students into different classrooms for reading instruction by ability. The Star-Tribune has been publishing articles extolling the virtues of "ability-grouping," especially during the 1997-1998 school year. And, aside from the non-tracking / non-ability-grouping schools (the open schools and Montessori schools), all district schools have been required to offer "gifted" programming since 1997.

In my opinion, most K-3 students in the Minneapolis Public Schools can learn how to read and can learn higher order reading skills in their native language. However, that capacity to learn is generally not actualized in students assigned to "low ability" reading classes because of limited curriculum, low teacher expectations, and low-self esteem (e.g., "I'm too stupid, so why bother trying") associated with placement in "low-ability" classrooms.

-Doug Mann