Ability Grouping In Private English

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Goals (Expectations)

The goal of this study is to prove the majority of students placed in classes appropriate for their learning levels (both lower and higher leveled students) will show progress on all assignments and tests scores; and will behave better and become more engaged in class.

Expected Outcomes

The number of students not doing well in one 4th grade will remain unchanged meaning the current 10 out of 22 total students (45%) who are at a lower level, and show constant disinterest will stay the same; as the curriculum for this class will remain as is. Furthermore the seven students (31%) who are at a high level, but also show signs of disinterest when the class is slowed down for the lower leveled students will also remain the same. Test scores will remain unchanged for the entire class.

No more than two of the lower leveled students out of the 12 (16%) in one 5th grade class will show disinterest and fail to perform well on tests and assignments on a consistent basis. Zero students out of eight (0%) who are at a high level will show signs of disinterest because the class will not be slowed down for the lower leveled students. One out of eight (13%) students will not perform well on tests and assignments on a consistent basis.

No more than three of the lower leveled students out of 10 students (30%) in one 6th grade class will show signs of disinterest or fail to perform well on tests and assignments on a consistent basis. Zero students out of nine (0%) who are at a high level will show signs of disinterest because class will not be slowed down for lower leveled students. Zero students out of nine (0%) will not perform well on tests and assignments on a consistent basis.

Of the lower leveled students put in ability groups from both classes, a total of five of the 22 students (22%) will continue to be uninterested in class and perform poorly on tests whereas 17 students (77%) will become more engaged in class and perform better on tests and assignments on a consistent basis. Of the higher leveled students put in ability groups from both classes, one of the 17 students (1%) will continue to be uninterested in class and perform poorly on tests and assignments whereas 16 of the 17 students (94%) will become more engaged in class, yet will continue to perform as usual on tests and assignments; as the current curriculum will continue to be taught.

Measurement of Outcomes

The number of students failing in the 4th grade class (receiving an 'F') is five of 22 students (23%), and the number of students receiving the lowest possible passing grade (a 'D') is five of 22 students (23%)

The number of students failing in the 5th grade class (receiving an 'F') is five of 20 students (25%), and the number of students receiving the lowest possible passing grade (a 'D') is three of 20 students (15%).

The number of students failing the 6th grade class (receiving an 'F') is six of 19 students (32%), and the number of students receiving the lowest possible passing grade (a 'D') is two of 19 students (11%).

Similar testing materials will be used for all sets of classes, but the lower-leveled students will receive be taught curriculum (the same series of textbook, only a lower level) better suited for their needs and English skill-set. The higher leveled students will continue with the current curriculum because the current chosen curriculum is based on the strengths of the higher achieving students in class.

Analysis of Results

Gathered quantitative data will come from examining test scores from all students pre- and post ability grouping. Examined quantitative data will come from a survey of the foreign teacher teaching the classes and the partner Korean teacher teaching the same classes. Both teachers will collaborate to determine if grouping the students by ability worked or did not work after the implementation period has expired. Both teachers teach the same group of students and both teachers have been partner teachers in the same classes for five years. Bar graphs illustrating a side-by-side comparison of the paired t-test of both pre- and post ability grouping will show the similarities or differences.

Chapter IV: Solution Strategy

Problem Statement

The problem is mixed-ability students currently enrolled at Exhibit English Academy do poorly on tests, tend to behave poorly, and have a difficult time after leveling up into the next year of schooling.

Discussion

Properly administered placement tests given to students prior to joining an educational facility can help to alleviate the problems of mixed ability classrooms.

Many private schools separate classes according to student ability (Personal Communication, n.d.). Barber (2007) noted in a study specifically dealing with EFL students from private institutions the practice of ability grouping is usually spearheaded via a reliable criterion-based placement test; one that needs to most certainly match the private school's syllabus. The test cannot be universal, for what works at one school cannot work at another simply because the vast number of different curriculums found in each private school.

Furthering the importance of placement tests, Scrivener (2007) noted the importance private schools needing to provide an accurate and reliable method of selecting students to join a specific course by mentioning levels of students do not necessarily exist. Students are often weaker in some areas of learning, but stronger in others. An effective placement test administered to understand all aspects of a student's abilities helps to place students in classes with others of a similar learning skill-set.

Placement tests are a very useful method of helping educational facilities out students in appropriate levels; thus ensuring students within the facility receive instruction best suited to their skills and competence of the language they wish to learn (Weaver, Jones & Bulach, 2007).

Ability Grouping classes can, and have been met with success.

Proponents of ability mixing believe the process better suited to all students; as the students in both higher and lower level classes feel more comfortable learning material that is better suited to their ability. The students feel more relaxed in class learning with like ability classmates; as each leveled group enables the teacher to structure lessons accordingly to fit the need of the students (Cheng, Shui-fong, & Chan 2008).

Hopkins (2004) noted in his research students placed into classes by ability rather than simply by age afforded the students the ability to progress at closer to their own rate of learning as opposed to forced to learn at a speed that is uncomfortable or even unachievable.

Pondiscio (2009) pointed out a study that found schools with more ability grouped classes produced more students at an advanced level of proficiency and less failing students than those schools that did not group by ability. The findings did not surprise Anna Penny, a retired New York teacher who told the New York Daily News, "Anyone who has ever taught knows that kids progress at dramatically different speeds in different subjects. When our schools resist tracking even when it's clearly needed, they wind up valuing homogeneous classrooms over effective ones" (Pondiscio, 2009, para. 3).

Brunello and Checchi (as cited in Van Houtte & Stevens, 2009) pointed out teaching students grouped ability is easier because the ability grouped classrooms allow the teacher to teach curriculum appropriately focused on the ability of the students. Furthermore, Hanushek, and Wobmann, (as cited in Van Houtte & Stevens, 2009) found teachers rarely need worry about the lowest level students losing focus, or boring the highest leveled students within the same class.

Description of Selected Solutions

Administering a level test that is current with the curriculum taught at Exhibit English can realistically be implemented.

The placement test will help ensure the students either failing or doing well are not just 'products of their environment.' Meaning students who are perhaps lazy and who put in little effort may very well be able to score good grades in a higher achieving class, but work ethic keeps them from currently doing so. Further, the test will help ensure students who are doing well, but perhaps have the pattern of class memorized so as to appear knowing that material, but who do not fully understand the curriculum will be properly placed in a level.

The following steps will be taken.

The students from each class will take a level appropriate placement test. The test will be fairly simple in design and will cover the skills of writing, grammar, and speaking. Testing of the students' reading and comprehension skills will take place via the students reading and answering questions from currently used books within the curriculum. The students' ability to comprehend the matter in the books they read from during the placement test coupled with the written and oral placement test will serve as evidence for which level the students should be placed in. The test should take approximately 15-30 minutes per student to administer depending on the skill level.

Students will be taught in classes with like ability students, and with curriculum suited to the students' levels. The same series of textbook will be taught to all levels to ensure the method of teaching stays the same to obtain the best data. For if different books are taught at each level, the students may have different difficulties depending on the material taught, and the teaching style will differ depending on the material in each textbook.

The students will be taught by the same teachers who have been teaching the students for more than two years. The native English foreigner will teach the students with a new curriculum for the lower leveled students only. The higher leveled students will continue with the curriculum currently taught. The Korean national will continue to work within the format of the curriculum set in place for those classes.

For qualitative measures, the tests scores will be compared and analyzed from before and after intervention from the native English teacher's class only. Homework completion will also be analyzed from before and after intervention from the native English teacher's class only. For quantitative purposes, a survey created for the teachers will be administered to gauge the students' behavior and attitude in class.

Calendar Plan

The plan will require both native English teacher and Korean national to work extra hours, so the calendar plan will be no longer than six months (enough time to complete one curriculum book). Each week homework completion will be recorded. An in-class comprehension and writing test will be administered every two weeks and the data recorded. At the end of the six months, upon completion of the curriculum, the data will be analyzed to determine if ability grouped classes are beneficial for students or not.

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