First, the expert they site, Carol Burris, is the head of a group I belong to, the Network for Public Education.
Carol Corbett Burris became Executive Director of the Network for Public Education Foundation in August 2015, after serving as principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in NY since 2000. Prior to becoming a principal, she was a teacher at both the middle and high school level.She is one of the brightest lights in pushing back on corporate ed reform and a great thinker on public education.
Dr. Burris co-authored Detracking for Excellence and Equity (2008) and Opening the Common Core: How to Bring ALL Students to College and Career Readiness (2012), and authored On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the 21st Century Struggle against Re-segregation (2014).
The Times' article cites her work in New York where she helped her district's de-track middle/high school students and that work showed an increase for African-American students as well as white, Latinos and Asian students, for the Regents Diploma (for A-A students, the rise was from 32-82% in four years.)
I again note that Maple Elementary tried this in 2006 by having Spectrum-level teaching in all their classrooms. It worked but Maple had to fund this on their own and when they found they could not carry on, the district did not step in to support this pilot effort. That's too bad.
Washington Middle School, in their own attempt, seems to be seeing results.
The article cites "a districtwide plan to eliminate all Spectrum-only classrooms in elementary schools" by this fall. Their link is to a late June Friday Memo authored by Michael Tolley. The problem with this - that the Times' article doesn't state, either because they didn't ask or didn't know - is that PARENTS were not informed that this was "the plan." And shame on the district for that.
Here's what the article says happens in the classroom - teachers give an assignment - the same content/topic - that has been differentiation for students with advanced vocabularies and those with lesser reading skills.
Principal Follmer at Washington says something that is key, "Role models are critical," "Take away role models and that's the best way to have low expectations."
First, it is absolutely true that teachers like high achievers in their classrooms. Those students tend to drive interest and dialog. (And, while some teachers may say they want all kids in the classroom for diversity, it also serves to help their teaching.)
But that second quote from the principal? It does not speak well of either a principal or teachers to say that if the high achievers are gone, that means the school has low expectations. Charlie says this over and over - there is absolutely no reason that schools cannot teach classes at whatever level they want.
But the key seems to be making sure the high achievers are in that classroom. Studies show that it does help but the kids it helps are the students on the low end. The students on the high end tend to stagnate.
Again, I have no problem with classes with multiple ability ranges. But it takes a lot more work for teachers, the ability to know how to differentiate the curriculum and, I believe, smaller class sizes.