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Grouping Gifted Children

"Cluster grouping is [when] identified gifted students at a grade level are assigned to one classroom with a teacher who has special training in how to teach gifted students. The other students in their assigned class are of mixed ability. Differentiated instructional opportunities allow gifted students to interact with their intellectual as well as their age peers. Through cluster grouping the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of the gifted students can be addressed." Patricia A. Schuler, "Cluster Grouping Coast to Coast," NRC G/T 1997 Winter Newsletter

See also ...  Curriculum Modifications, Middle School and Gifted Children, and Arguments and Red Herrings: Differentiation

Ability Grouping Recommended a Position Statement of the National Association for Gifted Children
NAGC wishes to reaffirm the importance of grouping for instruction of gifted students. Grouping allows for more appropriate, rapid, and advanced instruction, which matches the rapidly developing skills and capabilities of gifted students...
 
The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement for All Recommended by Susan Winebrenner and Dina Brulles
In today’s standards-driven era, how can teachers motivate and challenge gifted learners and ensure that all students reach their potential? This book provides a compelling answer: the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model (SCGM).  Find a wealth of teacher-tested classroom strategies along with detailed information on identifying students for clusters, gaining support from parents, and providing ongoing professional development. Special attention toward empowering gifted English language learners. CD-ROM features all of the reproducible forms plus a PowerPoint presentation...
 
The Concept of Grouping in Gifted Education In Search of Reality: Unraveling the Myths about Tracking, Ability Grouping and the Gifted Recommended by Ellen D. Fiedler, Richard E. LAnge and Susan Winebrenner, in Roeper Review  (available from Highbeam.com, by subscription, or free trial)
Research offers answers to many common myths.  Myth #2: Ability grouping is elitist.  Myth #3: Ability grouping inevitably discriminates against racial and ethnic minority students.  Myth #4: Gifted students will make it on their own; grouping them by ability does not result in improved learning or achievement for them.  Myth #6: Assuring that there are some gifted students in all classrooms will provide positive role models for others and will automatically improve the classroom climate...
 
The elephant in the classroom Recommended by Ellis Page and Timothy Keith
Schooling in a homogeneous group of students appears to have a positive effect on high-ability students' achievements, and even stronger effects on the achievements of high-ability minority youth. Grouping does not seem to affect negatively the achievements of low-ability youth. Indeed, ability grouping seems to have no consistent negative effects on any group or any outcome we studied.  We assert that ability grouping may have positive effects on gifted students' learning, the most important educational outcome, and that these effects seem particularly powerful on gifted minority youth...
 
The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner Recommended by Karen B. Rogers
Full-length paper now available online!  Research shows strong, consistent support for the academic effects of most forms of ability grouping for enrichment and acceleration, but the research is scant and weak concerning the socialization and psychological adjustment effects of these practices. Claims for the academic superiority of mixed-ability grouping or for whole group instructional practices were not substantiated for gifted and talented learners. A series of guidelines for practice, based upon the research synthesized is included... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
Research Synthesis on Gifted Provisions Recommended by Karen Rogers
Dr. Karen Rogers updates (1999) her earlier synthesis of what the research says about gifted educational provisions.  Essential gifted education provisions are listed, along with their effect on students when comparing to other gifted students...
 
Using Current Research to Make Good Decisions About Grouping Recommended by Karen B. Rogers, in NASSP Bulletin - no longer available free, but available for a fee from Sage Publications
High-ability and gifted students tend to benefit most from like-ability grouping, because the strategy provides them with the opportunity to access more advanced knowledge and skills and to practice deeper processing.  Guidelines include:
• Group gifted students by their ability or achievement levels for the majority of their school day in all academic core areas.
• Provide enrichment opportunities, carefully differentiated learning experiences, and acceleration opportunities to gifted students; Grouping alone does not produce a substantial achievement effect
Use whole group and mixed-ability group methods (such as cooperative learning) sparingly and perhaps only for socialization purposes. There is no well-controlled research evidence to suggest any achievement effect for this form of grouping with either highly able or gifted students.
 
An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives by James A. Kulik
Grouping programs that entail more substantial adjustment of curriculum to ability have clear positive effects on children... Research abstract of Dr. Kulik's analysis of cluster grouping...  (Summary on page 39, with information to order the full length paper)
 
Answers to Common Questions about Ability Grouping  by Mary Ann Swiatek
Does ability grouping increase the academic achievement of gifted students? Should the curriculum vary by ability group? Are gifted children who are NOT exposed to ability grouping at risk for problems?  These and more questions answered...
 
Basic Educational Options for Gifted Students in Schools by Joyce VanTassel-Baska
Most school mission statements proclaim the intention of educating every child to the level of his or her potential, yet many times those words have no translation value for the gifted as they sit bored in classrooms where their instructional level exceeds by years...  There is a real need to consider nonnegotiable options for this population...
 
Cluster Grouping Coast to Coast by Patricia A. Schuler
NRC/GT newsletter article on the state of Cluster Grouping in school districts across the United States
 
Cluster Grouping of Gifted Students: How to Provide Full-time Services on a Part-time Budget (ERIC Digest #538) by Susan Winebrenner and Barbara Devlin
Cluster grouping represents a mindful way to make sure gifted students receive a quality education at the same time as schools work to improve learning opportunities for all students
 
Cluster Grouping of Gifted Students: How to Provide Full-time Services on a Part-time Budget: Update 2001 (ERIC Digest #607) by Susan Winebrenner and Barbara Devlin
The work of many researchers (Allan, 1991; Feldhusen, 1989; Fiedler, Lange, & Winebrenner, 1993; Kulik and Kulik, 1990; Rogers, 1993) clearly documents the benefits of keeping gifted students together in their areas of greatest strength for at least part of the school day. It also appears that all students, including average and below average students, may benefit when gifted students are placed in their own cluster...
 
The Conceptual Model of Nongraded Schooling
A specific listing of the 36 assumptions of nongradedness (elementary school level)
 
Debate Over Ability Grouping Gains High Profile by Peter Schmidt, in EdWeek
The debate over ability grouping in public schools appears to be escalating, and supporters of the practice are increasingly being placed on the defensive
 
The Effects of Group Composition on Gifted and Non-Gifted Elementary Students in Cooperative Learning Groups by David A. Kenny, Francis X. Archambault, Jr. and Bryan W. Hallmark
Gifted fourth grade students experienced no adverse effects as a result of interacting with non-gifted students in cooperative learning groups. In fact, students are seen as more friendly and better leaders in these groups, and they experience a relative increase in social self-esteem in heterogeneous groups. At the same time, the non-gifted student does not experience an increase in achievement due to the presence of a gifted student. Thus, the view of the gifted child as a teaching resource was not supported. However, the non-gifted student in heterogeneous groups suffers from a decline in self-esteem and a decline in the perception by non-gifted peers on task-relevant activities. Heterogeneous grouping has positive socioemotional outcomes for gifted children and negative ones for non-gifted children... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
The Effects of Grouping and Curricular Practices on Intermediate Students' Math Achievement by Carol L. Tieso
Grade 4 and 5 students were exposed to curricular enhancement and grouping, to compare both academic gains and qualitative benefits.  Both teachers and students enjoyed math more in appropriate groupings, and students made significant gains when instruction was based on their academic levels... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
Exploring the Conflicts Involved With Ability Grouping by Valerie Pare
It is important to take a comprehensive look at both the detrimental and beneficial effects that ability grouping and tracking can have, since "the last thing any educator wants to do is to be responsible for educational decisions that are harmful to anyone"...
 
Grouping: A Short, Data Based Primary Journal Research Sources Bibliography by Joseph S. Renzulli
The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), University of Connecticut, Storrs
 
Grouping the gifted and talented: questions and answers by Karen Rogers
Questions about the academic, psychological, and socialization effects on gifted and talented learners of grouping for enrichment, cooperative grouping for regular instruction, and grouping for acceleration are addressed...
 
How should we group to achieve excellence with equity? by Bonnie Grossen
Ability grouping in America has become a loaded word...
 
In search of reality: unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted by Susan Winebrenner, Roeper Review (available for a fee from Highbeam.com)
The antitracking movement has suddenly become anti-ability grouping, resulting in serious side-effects for gifted students who currently are being served effectively in ability-grouped programs that consistently meet their needs. Closer scrutiny of the research frequently cited reveals commonly-held misinterpretations and misconceptions...
 
One size fits all? by Mike Robison
Age based tracking versus ability grouping in elementary school mathematics
 
SASP Interviews: Arthur R. Jensen by A Alexander Beaujean, University of MissouriColumbia
Teachers should also notice pupils who are especially exceptional at the high end of the ability spectrum; they often need a different educational program than that offered to their more typical age-mates... Tracking (homogenous ability grouping) allows more pupils to receive more relevant instruction in keeping with their rate of progress during their time in school than when the teacher has to pitch the instruction mostly at just the average level of the pupils in a mainstream class, or when the teacher’s attention and effort has to be divided between widely differing ability groups within the same classroom... (requires Adobe Reader)
 
School Choice and the Distributional Effects of Ability Tracking: Does Separation Increase Equality? by David N. Figlio, Marianne E. Page
Tracking programs have been criticized on the grounds that they harm disadvantaged children...  We use a new strategy for overcoming the endogeneity of track placement and find no evidence that tracking hurts low-ability children. We also demonstrate that tracking programs help schools attract more affluent students... (this paper costs $5 to purchase)
 
Total School Cluster Grouping: An Investigation of Achievement and Identification of Elementary School Students by Marcia Gentry,
University of Connecticut
During the 3 years that students were involved in the cluster grouping program, their achievement increased significantly when compared to similar students from a school that did not use cluster grouping.  when a cluster grouping model is implemented, there may be a positive effect on the achievement and identification of all students, not just those identified and placed in the cluster for high ability students. This is most likely when teachers have training in tailoring curriculum and instruction to the individual needs of students and when teacher expectations are high for all students...  For more details read Gentry's full research Promoting Student Achievement and Exemplary Classroom Practices through Cluster Grouping: A Research-Based Alternative to Heterogeneous Elementary Classrooms (full research only requires Adobe Reader)
 
Tracking, Ability Grouping and the Gifted Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education bulletin
Roll away the clouds of misconception about ability grouping and to shine new light on current research related to meeting the educational needs of all students in our schools, including the gifted...
 
The Tracking and Ability Grouping Debate by Tom Loveless, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Tracking and ability grouping remain among the most hotly debated topics in American education today, as they have been for nearly a century. After all this time and attention, what have we actually learned about these issues?
 
The Tracking Wars: State Reform Meets School Policy by Tom Loveless
Past condemnations are easy to understand, but today's tracking functions differently.  Grouping takes place within each subject, not across an entire regiment of academic courses.  Track assignments are guided by successful completion of prerequisite courses, not by IQ tests...
 
Within-Class Cluster Grouping and Related Strategies: Brief Summaries Prepared by Joseph Renzulli and Harry Milne
Summaries of 18 different studies including purpose, sample, results and conclusions, and where to find them
 
Last updated October 23, 2012
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