Grouping plan requires further review
There is no available objective data proving we will be better served by the proposed Johnstown grade-level grouping plan. The abilities of the majority of our children may actually worsen.
The district website (www.johnstownschools.org) offers two papers to support the grouping plan. One, “Teaching Effectiveness and The Conditions That Matter Most in High-Needs Schools,” omits any review of grade- level grouping. Instead, it focuses on teachers in “high-poverty schools.”
The report tells us these schools are staffed with “out-of-field, inexperienced and less prepared teachers a disproportionate number of beginning and out-of-field teachers.” These teachers face a “struggle to find resources they can use to differentiate instruction for students with varying special needs, including the growing number of students who are learning English as a second language.” Does Johnstown face these same issues?
This report then addresses “vertical collaboration” – sharing information between lower grade levels and higher grade levels. The report concludes vertical sharing “has been shown to improve teacher retention and effectiveness over time.” Because grade-level grouping will reduce or eliminate “vertical collaboration” by isolating grades in three separate locations, our teacher effectiveness will also unavoidably be reduced.
The paper then notes, “Research shows that student mobility can depress achievement.” Moving every child through three different elementary schools is a significant example of “student mobility,” and the resulting loss of achievement is yet another argument against grade-level grouping.
The second paper, “Teaming Up: Linking Collaboration Networks, Collective Efficacy, and Student Achievement,” used data “collected from 53 Dutch elementary schools.” There are significant cultural, economic and academic differences between us and the Netherlands. Further, Dutch elementary schools have eight grades, as compared to the plan’s proposed three.
This report revealed, “Teachers’ collective efficacy beliefs appeared to be beneficial to students’ language achievement, but not to mathematics achievement.” The research also pointed out that in the Netherlands, “students’ reading achievement results have decreased significantly in the last years.” Promoting particular Dutch academic practices, while ignoring the real possibility of damage to our students’ essential math skills and the reported significant injury to reading achievement, is distressing.
Much more research is necessary before the school board can confidently assess how our children and our community will be affected by grade- level grouping. We cannot rely on guesswork, biased opinions and cherry-picked sentences from “exploratory” reports. Any vote is ill-advised.