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Diagnostic Grouping of Year 7
In order to increase the potential to promote increased educational outcomes and more effective socialisation, students are grouped according to certain criteria. Even random assignment is a criterion. Research indicates that gifted learners can increase their achievement significantly (effect size 0.33 or greater) after appropriate grouping. Effect size is the difference in means on outcome measures between the treatment group and the control group, divided by the standard deviation of the pooled group. It is expressed in standard deviation units. Professor Rogers (1996) reported on a meta-analysis of interventions for the gifted and their researched effect sizes: a separate 'gifted' track (0.33), cluster grouping (0.62), subject acceleration (0.57), pull-out for enrichment (0.65), mentorships (0.47). It should be stressed that grouping as an allocation or scheduling device has very little value added effect on its own. Pedagogical variations need to be made to meet the learning needs of the group [e.g. curriculum compacting, fast-paced learning, lateral enrichment, accelerative enrichment ]. Students who are challenged in appropriately grouped learning environments can achieve improvements in outcomes.
Incoming Year 7 Students
A policy of purposeful grouping is applied to our incoming cohort of 180 students. Groups for special purposes are formed. A detailed analysis of test scores is undertaken each year. The annual grouping decisions for incoming Year 7 students are informed by the results of the analysis. In addition, students are asked to complete a comprehensive survey of their interests, skills and abilities in co-curricular activities. These surveys are analysed to extract claims of demonstrated performance in sports or music and to target students for chess or debating / public speaking or leadership / service groups when they arrive at High. The groups are formed according to the following priorities:
1. Outrider Class
Statistical data confirm that an outrider group of students with measured differences in innate ability comes into our school each year. Gifted education literature indicates that the learning and socialisation needs of this group are potentially significantly different from the bulk of our students. Converting ability into performance is a function of motivation and application. We have the challenge of motivating and inspiring effort from boys who may have not had to work before to master the curriculum in Years 1-6. Students with high test scores can sometimes have social adjustment issues if they have never interacted with similarly gifted students in educational or social settings. Each year a class is formed comprised of high ability students with the purpose of attempting to meet their individual learning and social needs. Normally, an SSET score of 240 is required for entry into this class. Teachers are expected to differentiate the curriculum for this class and challenge them..
2. English Skills Enhancement
Our school has a long-term incidence of performance differential in English, relative to mathematics and GAT on the SSET. Students with English scores of 10 or more lower than both their mathematics and GAT scores are placed in the same class, if 30 students with test score profiles like this can be found. The intention is to provide these students with teacher expertise and specialist resources to support them as they endeavour to bridge the gap between their English and mathematics performance. Teachers are asked to focus on scaffolding writing tasks, explicitly teaching the active verbs and explaining text type requirements and audiences.
3. Music Proficiency Class
A music class is formed each year if there are 30 boys who have formal qualifications in music at an appropriate level, usually with AMEB credentials. Students in the music class are offered a compacted and differentiated stage 4 curriculum. The top 20 musicians in Year 7 are offered an acceleration pathway in music to complete the HSC by Year 11.
4. Sports Proficiency Class
Many of our incoming students are currently playing club level sport. Some have representative level qualifications. A number play club competition in two sports. Such groups of boys are targeted by teachers for special interventions designed to facilitate their development as sports performers. PE teachers find competition within the sports group is strong. Students with talent can be referred to sports coaches and mentored. By rotating the class each year, a more even House competition is possible. The teachers of this class are asked to provide activities for kinaesthetic learners. They often respond well to group and collaborative tasks requiring movement.
5. Language Preference Classes
In order to respond to student free choice electives for LOTE in Year 7, classes need to be formed to align their language selections. Mr Dowdell organises 12 language classes, operating among the three pairs of classes. Our recent pattern has settled on 3 Latin classes, 3 Chinese classes, 4 French classes and 2 German classes. As any language aligned classes have been allocated to reflect administrative and scheduling concerns, no special pedagogical approach is requested for those classes. We regret that not all boys can be assigned to their favoured language as a result of this process.
Occasionally, two other groups may be formed, if test scores profiles vary.
6. English Enrichment Group
To improve Band 6 HSC performance in English, it was decided to target boys with English ability early, in order to motivate and challenge them to reach their potential more effectively. Students with strong English scores generally read more and faster and write more prolifically than their peers. These boys are placed together with the intention of fostering their English talent. Such a class may be formed providing 30 boys have appropriate test result profiles and other priorities have been met.
7. General Abilities Group
Students with high General Abilities Test (GAT) scores are identified. A class may be formed each year depending upon the test profiles of the incoming boys and if other priorities have been met. The purpose of grouping such boys together is to stimulate general performance outside the Key Learning Areas of English and mathematics. We have found many boys with this score profile are talented in the science and /or TAS KLAs. Teachers attempt to challenge students in these areas with compacted curriculum or accelerative enrichment activities.
Student Welfare considerations
The basic class lists are drawn up. The classes are adjusted after a screening process is undertaken. The Principal, in consultation with the Head Teacher Welfare, the School Counsellors, the Year 7 Adviser, the Head Teacher Sport and teachers from music, consider information supplied by applicants or passed on to us by primary school teachers, executive or School Counsellors. If a concern is raised, Counsellors from our major feeder primary schools are contacted concerning any boys who had difficulties with each other. Where unresolved issued were identified, the boys concerned are not placed in the same class. Some boys who were the only ones from a particular primary school are grouped together for Year 7 where possible, if they request it. Sometimes twins are placed together or separated according to family preference. Student well being considerations are primary.