Grouping Policy

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Diagnostic Grouping of Year 7

Rationale

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.


Grouping in Years 8-12

Year 8

By the end of year 7, motivation and performance variables will result in a new rank order to be created - a performance rank order. All faculties should be implementing multiple measures to ascertain an accurate performance rank order by the end of Year 7. We should bear in mind that to the extent that the new rank order does not reflect measured ability, some less than optimal learning has probably taken place. Learning styles need to be considered in relation to a comprehensive curriculum 7-10. In the interests of maximising demonstrated performance on syllabus related tasks, there is a strong argument for high performers to be in the same class where four or more classes are scheduled in a subject cohort. Either the top 30 boys should be selected for the same class or the top sixty boys should be in two classes and the other 5 or 4 classes made up of mixed performance.

Years 9 & 10

In Stage 5 some very apparent subject specific performance differences emerge amongst gifted learners, yet they have to continue in the compulsory curriculum. Higher performing students in English, mathematics and science should be grouped together - or at least the top 60 of them should be - if we are to maximise the overall potential of the cohort. More sophisticated performance indicators need to be developed during Year 8 so that an accurate assessment may be made of the standard of student learning by the end of the year. Again, banding is the preferred grouping strategy, but fully graded classes are better than mixed ability ones for gifted achievement.

Years 11 & 12

By spreading the courses across the timetable lines we have greatly enhanced choice for senior students. However, specific assessment problems result in English , Mathematics and science in particular. Where possible, multiple classes on a line to should be banded or graded. In Year 11 a great majority of our students are taking extensions in mathematics and English. In such a case it is wise to grade so that if class numbers reduce in Year 12, the high performing students are not affected. As far as possible 1-unit discontinuers should be identified and grouped together in terminating classes.

Procedures

In years 8-12, individual Departments develop their own policy in respect of grouping. Where six classes are scheduled for one line, there is an expectation that some form of ‘banding’ will occur. A ’banded’ grouping allocation means that one or two classes of high achievers are formed in a year cohort and the rest of the classes are mixed in measured performance. A ‘graded’ year cohort means that each class in the year is formed on the basis of descending measured performance in the preceding semester or year. A ‘streamed’ year means that the cohort has been divided into two groups and these two groups have been graded. ‘Mixed ability’ means that students are assigned to classes randomly, using the alphabet or some other means.

Department Grouping Policies

English
Years 8-10 - In English, two high performance classes and four mixed ability classes are determined in Years 8, 9 and 10. These classes are re-created each year according to the demonstrated performance of all students as opposed to their potential as indicated in ability test results.

Class work is a vital part of student assessment because it develops skills and knowledge. Programs stipulate the outcomes central to each unit of work that classes study. To satisfactorily complete outcomes mandated in the English Syllabus, students must complete the work their teachers provide for them. Students are given an indication of their performance in each task and an understanding of which level of performance their assessment products fit. There are common tasks at the completion of each unit. A Standards Referencing Check ensures work of the same standard is awarded the same mark within the same level of performance. In Term 4 students are invited to complete a Talented Students Project which is considered along with the other measures of high achievement.

At the end of the year a pool of suitable candidates for the high performance band is chosen after a conference of teachers of that cohort. The teachers consider results in across-the-year tests, the quality of a portfolio of a student’s work, selected work samples and in-class indicators of high performance in English. Generally speaking, students rated as grade ‘A’ in respect of the School Certificate indicators, are chosen for the high performers pool. Students who are rated by their teachers as on the cusp of ‘A’ performance are then discussed. Work samples, test results and in-class data are considered. If this process produces more than 60 students in the pool (including the previously selected level 6 performers), the final composition of the band of high performers is decided on the basis of the rank order achieved in the Yearly examination.

Years 11-12 - The most able students in each line in Year 11 are clustered in nominated Advanced English classes where possible. Able students are banded together in Extension English, within the constraints of the timetable. (English is offered on several lines in the senior school.) When deciding on suitable candidates for high performing students in Preliminary Course classes, a combination of class work and across-the-year test results is used. In Year 12, classes carry forward as in Year 11, due to the commencement of Year 12 work in Term 4 of Year 11.

Mathematics
Year 8 is grouped into two parallel streams, based on students’ yearly report marks. After one semester those students with a mark which exceeds the median mark of the class above are eligible for promotion. A student may be moved down if his mark is lower than the median mark of the class below. It is possible to move more than one class up or down. Year 9 is re-graded based on the Year 8 yearly report mark. There is no movement during the year. Movement from Year 9 to Year 10 is based on students’ results exceeding or being under neighbouring class medians, based on results in the Yearly examination. In Year 11 classes are graded within levels, based upon performance in the Year 10 Yearly and the Year 10 Options examinations. After term 1 in Year 11, four classes of 2-unit students will be selected to complete HSC 2-unit mathematics. The remainder of the mathematics extension classes will sit for Preliminary examinations at the end of term 3. There is no re-grading in Year 12.

Science
Stage 5 Science classes are grouped into 1 high achievement class and 5 mixed ability classes based on the previous year’s results. The 5 and 1 split system allows students at the high end of the achievement scale to move more quickly through the course work and creates time for extension activities. The banding is designed to avoid students feeling that they were no good at science. Senior science classes are not streamed due to timetabling constraints. In some lines there are 2 physics classes or 2 chemistry classes. Students are allocated to approximately equal mixed ability classes. Senior classes are allocated evenly among teachers with appropriate qualifications. Junior classes including the banded year 9 and 10 classes are allocated as evenly as possible after senior needs are met.

Social Science
No banding or streaming occurs in Years 7-10. Senior classes are not streamed. Where there are two classes in the same line (Economics) students are allocated alphabetically to form equal mixed ability classes. Senior classes are allocated to teachers with appropriate qualifications and subject specialisations. Junior classes are allocated as evenly as possible within the constraints resulting from the allocation of senior classes.

History
Years 7 to 10 follow English classes to ease the demands placed on the timetable. Years 9 & 10 electives are on separate timetable lines and consequently are mixed ability. Senior history classes appear only once on each line and as a result are mixed ability except that on occasions all non mathematics students appear in the same class. In Year 10 an accelerated history class may be formed from history electives students.

Languages other than English
Chinese students are grouped into 3 classes. There is a clear distinction between the two Background classes and the single non-background class. Although desirable, because of timetabling issues caused by the choice of a second language, it is not always possible to grade the Background classes. Otherwise, no grouping occurs except what might be necessary to allow all students to study their 1 or 2 language choices in on-line or off-line classes. If 2 languages are chosen, they are not chosen preferentially and this frees up options for placing students. In Years 9-10, Chinese students are grouped into 1 Background and 1 Non-Background class. Otherwise it is rare for there to 2 be classes in any 1 language. Senior classes are not grouped.

PD/Health/PE
In Years 7-9 PE classes are determined by classes determined by other departments. In Year 10 the assessment focus broadens to incorporate the value of co-operation and teamwork. Thirty percent of the School Certificate assessment grade is given to team-based competitions in soccer, touch football, basketball, volleyball and/or cricket. The team selection is based on a grouping policy to promote balanced competitions, with the more skilled players spread throughout the teams. New teams combinations are selected for each sport.

Technology and Applied Studies
For Design and Technology in Years 7 & 8 classes are formed by other criteria and split into three groups of twenty from paired base classes. In electives classes in Years 9 & 10, TAS electives tend to be in single classes or on different lines. Grouping is not an issue, except in the case of ability grouping for acceleration in Information Processes and Technology. In the senior school, single classes on a line are usual, so grouping is not relevant.

Creative Arts
For Creative Arts in Years 7 & 8 classes are determined by classes formed by other departments and split into 9 classes of twenty in each year from paired classes. In electives classes in Years 9 & 10, music and Art electives tend to be in single classes or on different lines. Grouping is not an issue, except in the case of ability grouping for acceleration in Visual Arts and Music. In the senior school, single classes on a line are usual, so grouping is not relevant.

Future Directions

The Senior Executive and Head Teachers will continue to refine their approaches to purposeful grouping to enhance learning outcomes. Talented students in particular disciplines will be identified and targeted. Where possible classes will be formed to accelerate appropriate students. A wide range of data will be gathered on incoming Year 7 students to assist identification of talents or support needs. Banding will be refined as a school policy for multiple classes on the same line of the timetable.