From: "Fred Gross" <[log in to unmask]>
To: Middle Level Mathematics Network <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: more on tracking
Date: Fri, Nov 12, 1999, 9:45 AM
In response to Sue Abrams note I believe she has some important points for
discussion. To begin, if I understand her story clearly, a school spent
one year with heterogeneous groups, found problems and reverted back to a
former model of pulling students out of class. Working with heterogeneous
groups means a lot of teacher professional development prior to mixing
students in classes. I am curious as to what and how much professional
development was done prior to and during the time that heterogenous groups
took place in the middle school she reported in her email?
I also wonder about the notion that the alleged fringes (upper and lower)
groups were being left out. One question for me is what is the
mathematical background of the teachers? I ask this because in a
heterogeneously grouped math class, a teacher needs a lot of content
background as well as a broad range of instructional and assessment
practices. This doesn't come easily and does take time.
I wonder about the "stigma" caused by being separated out from peers,
especially at the middle school. Did anyone interview the students, who
were pulled out to ask them about their experiences? Despite our best
efforts to give more meaningful mathematics to lower performing students,
there is a classroom culture that exists when students are separated out
through some unknown or poorly formed criteria. These students feel they
are pulled out, because they aren't as smart and therefore they fulfill
this prediction of their abilities. They act out and don't perform.
Although she mentions the Japanese model, how much do we really know about
Japanese schools? We have to look to ourselves and talk about our beliefs
before looking at the structures. I do believe that all students need to
be exposed to and work with complex mathematical concepts and ideas. I
also believe that this can be done well in a mathematics classroom. Anne
Wheelock wrote a book entitled "Crossing the Tracks". This gives many
examples of what classrooms and math classrooms can be in our society.
Students don't have to be lost, nor do teachers or parents. But, as I
mentioned before, it takes a lot for forethought, planning, and
perseverance to make this pay off. In my experience, students of all
levels had many successful experiences in a heterogeneous math class.
Keeping the discussion going may be our best method for learning more about
this important topic.