When Buzzwords Collide: “High Expectations” and “Differentiation”

In response to today's Times piece on in-classroom ability grouping, I blogged over at Slate about the potential tensions between "high expectations" and "differentiation," two of the education world's favorite buzzwords. The comments section is rollicking, with many Slate parents supporting pull-out gifted and talented instruction. Among teachers participating in the discussion, there seems to be some disagreement about whether the optimal classroom groupings are static or flexible. One teacher supports stable groups that include one child great at math, another strong in reading, another who is an avid artist, etc. Another says classroom groups should never be static; continuous assessment means students can move into an advanced group on a given subject when they grasp a new concept, providing a sense of accomplishment. 

Check it out.

One thought on “When Buzzwords Collide: “High Expectations” and “Differentiation”

  1. EB

    High expectations are easier to operationalize when there is some differentiation (a term which I’m now coming to realize means some readiness grouping within the classroom, not 30 different lessons for 30 different children). An awful lot of the commenters on your Slate story do not seem to be teachers, and it is teachers who can give you a more fine-grained view of this challenge. I have taught in inner-city classrooms, and what you strive to do is have expectations that wills stretch the children, but not overwhelm them. Actually, I think that differentiation/readiness grouping is even more important in low-income classrooms that contain children who are far behind in their knowledge and skills. Because in that same classroom there will be children who are not behind at all, and who deserve a chance to develop their knowledge and skills too.


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