Gifted class or cluster grouping: pros and cons - Mothering Forums

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Old 03-07-2014, 05:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS will be starting his school's gifted program (GATE) next school year, in 5th grade. The way they've done it in the past, for each grade level there's a class in which all the GATE kids are placed, and then the extra slots in the class are filled with high-achieving mainstream kids.

From what I've heard, next year they're changing it so that a few GATE kids will be sprinkled in each class (3 classes per grade). I'm not sure if this change is positive, negative, or no big deal either way. So I'm wondering, how does the gifted program work at your school, and does anyone with more experience have some insight about the ramifications of this change? Thanks!

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Old 03-07-2014, 10:55 PM
 
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That's called cluster grouping.  Wikipedia has a decent summary of the issues if you search for "Cluster grouping." I would not be in favor of this change.

 

With cluster grouping, you'll be reliant upon each individual teacher to be able to access and accommodate the gifted kids in her class, and IME teachers have very different skill levels and interest levels in this. Many of them are already overwhelmed with the task of accommodating the low-performing kids in her class, and now she's expected to adjust for both the low-performers, the mass of average performers, and ALSO now she must deal with the high achievers, too.

 

Also, with cluster grouping, the gifted kids have fewer intellectual peers in a class which could reduce their social opportunities, or (depending on the social environment) cause them to want to achieve less to be more acceptable to some average peers.

 

There's also no reason to expect that gifted kids will be good role models and there's conflicting information about whether the higher performance of gifted kids will somehow drag up the other kids in the classroom (for example, this recent study says it doens't: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211093926.htm).

 

So, my thoughts--better than nothing, but not as good as a gifted classroom. I would guess that cluster grouping is being implemented to save money and administrative costs.


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Old 03-08-2014, 12:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Aufilia! It seems I had the wording wrong -- I've edited the OP and the thread title to more accurately reflect what I'm trying to ask. 

 

I appreciate your input -- some of the points you raised are things that concerned me when I first heard about this change, wondering how teachers who haven't been teaching GATE kids for the past 10+ years will handle suddenly having those kids in their classroom, and wondering if the education will truly be differentiated, or if it will instead just be diluted to the same level for everyone. At the last PTA meeting, the principal even said something about it being like having "GATE for everyone," which makes me wonder, then, what is the point of the designation? 

 

This designation is something I'm conflicted about anyway. DS is very bright, but his school is fantastic and I don't feel that he's been underserved by the regular curriculum up until this point. Hmm, I don't know. Lots to think about. 


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Old 03-08-2014, 12:35 AM
 
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There's also no reason to expect that gifted kids will be good role models and there's conflicting information about whether the higher performance of gifted kids will somehow drag up the other kids in the classroom (for example, this recent study says it doens't: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131211093926.htm).

 

I have a child in a gifted program, it's a magnet program in a different school than our zoned school for kids who tested into it, and there are two 3/4 classes and two 5/6 classes. One of the issues we are facing is that my child is incredibly unmotivated and seems to do the least she can to get by.  I actually went to one of the brown bag lunches that the GATE coordinator had that was dealing with the topic of kids who aren't being challenged enough and what can happen (basically that they might end up feeling like everything is too hard as soon as they are finally challenged). Anyway, I think it's interesting because I can definitely see how they could not be good role models...especially if they have a bad attitude, which, to be fair, most kids may not.

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Old 03-08-2014, 09:00 AM
 
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I live in a college town with a high percentage of AIG students in the public schools. They estimate 30-35% of the students in our school system test at 95%+. We theoretically have 4 or 5 levels of gifted services, but my dd2 just is in the "regular" gifted, not "highly gifted" or the 99%+ gifted which is a separate self-contained program. In the schools where I came up she'd definitely be one of the top 10% of kids in her class, but in her school now she's in the top third. The teachers she's had have been great at dealing with regular gifted kids and cluster grouping has not been an issue at all. We have a gifted coordinator who comes in and works with the kids in addition to their regular classroom teachers. It's been fine in our experience.

 

I think it does help to have peers who are on about your same level. Since there are a lot of kids in our schools on dd2's level she doesn't need to be in a separate class, but for the 99%+ kids I think it can help some of them to be in the separate self-contained program. I was talking to a friend whose son is in that and she said it's been really good for him. It draws from all the schools across the school system (10-12 elementary schools and 4 middle schools). It's really designed for kids who are performing across all subjects at least 2 grade levels above their current grade. It helps them to have peers who are on their level and that could be harder to find in the regular classroom.

 

In my experience cluster grouping can work fine if you have kids who really are about the same level grouped together w/in the regular classroom (and I think it's beneficial for gifted kids to see other kids who might need a little extra help in some academic subjects, but have strengths in other areas — are athletic, funny, kind, artistic, etc) and you have teachers who are good w/ gifted kids.


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Old 03-08-2014, 09:01 AM
 
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It's really difficult to say. Honestly, these programs can have the same name but still be apples and oranges. I've yet to see a school handle the same program exactly the same way. How the individual child reacts to any such program can be vastly different as well. 

 

My eldest was in a gifted cluster in 5th grade. Prior to that, they were sprinkled about but also placed with teachers and students it was felt would be a good fit for the individual child. We were pretty happy prior to that change. DD had her grade skip and then was placed with more of the high-achievers (and while she may be intellectually gifted... she's also very much the high-achiever personality. Wants an ordered class. Wants to work independently, master the work and move on.) Then, 5th grade, they moved to clustering. Where DD used to be accommodated for as an individual, suddenly she was faced with a "one-size-fits-all-gifted-kids" mentality. We were dismayed to discover the cluster was riddled with behavioral issues. The below average kids were not placed in that class so the teacher didn't have so wide a range to accommodate for BUT she was constantly challenged on every little thing (relevant or not) and so, they actually moved slower than the other classes did. Now, I'm not saying that gifted children are all behavioral issues. I have two and neither have issues. I'm just pointing out that a cluster is only as good as the kids in it. If your child has been happy with the cluster she's been in over the years then of course, she'd most likely continue to be happy. For DD the cluster and then the middle school daily GATE class (most of the same kids) AND then high school highly gifted track (totally different kids but same issues) were sort of torturous and we ended up opting out of certain offerings and going more for the honors programs where she was still the accelerated learner but the atmosphere and focus were a better fit.

 

Now, my youngest is not a behavioral issue but he loves to bounce about academic wise. He loves tangents. He could care less if they only manage to get through half the book. He enjoyed the cluster despite the behavioral issues (and there were a lot in his class too even though the cluster started in 2nd grade.) He enjoyed the additional gifted pull-out program twice a week. He likes his middle school GATE class. He's a different kid with different goals though honestly, I'm not sure he's getting as strong of an education as DD did.

 

So, I know, not much help. I'd go in with an open mind and a positive attitude. Your D might do well without the cluster and appreciate the diversity of abilities in the class. It'll all come down to the quality of teacher and how well your DD expresses her needs.


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Old 03-08-2014, 09:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So in my experience cluster grouping can work fine if you have kids who really are about the same level grouped together and you have teachers who are good w/ gifted kids.

(Bolding mine)

The bolded is what I'm worried about. Only 1 teacher in each grade level has experience teaching gifted kids, but next year the other 2 teachers in each grade level will suddenly find themselves with 6-8 gifted kids in their class (and the gifted teacher will suddenly find herself with a much higher proportion of non-gifted students). I'm sure some sort of training will take place, but it's a concern for me.

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Old 03-08-2014, 05:37 PM
 
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What's the class size, and are the non-gate kids at the school neighbourhood kids?


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Old 03-08-2014, 07:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What's the class size, and are the non-gate kids at the school neighbourhood kids?

Class size averages at around 31 at our school. My kids don't attend our neighborhood school, so none of DS's classmates are neighborhood kids.

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