The school promised that the inclusive classroom would provide more rigorous instruction for all students and that all students would benefit. Is that what happened?
Here is a link to Washington's CSIP. In it, we find the results of their experiment. But first, the propaganda:
Mission Statement: "Our mission at WMS is to create a safe, trusting, collaborative, learning-focused community where we can all be our BEST selves."
"In addition, we will create more rigorous classes by clustering Spectrum and Scholar students in all English Language Arts and Social Studies classes. This practice will end the deleterious results that come from tracking students."How does filling a class with students of mixed abilities create more rigorous classes? Is rigor a function of who is in the room or a function of what is taught? Why couldn't the rigor of the class be increased without mixing the students? If mixing students of different abilities and achievement increases rigor, then why not have classes with mixed grade levels? Wouldn't that have the same effect? Yet Washington doesn't do that. And what are the deleterious results that come from tracking? Do they come from tracking or, again, from what content the teachers deliver. Washington only has three tracks: HCC, taught two grade levels ahead; Spectrum, taught one grade level ahead; and general education (Scholars) taught at grade level. So if everyone is taught to at least the grade level standards, what deleterious effect could there be?
"Additionally, we will:
• Create more rigorous classes by clustering Spectrum and Scholar students in all English Language Arts and Social Studies classes, increasing challenge and rigor for all students"Again, how does the inclusion of the Scholars increase challenge and rigor for the Spectrum students? And how does the inclusion of the Spectrum students increase challenge and rigor for the Scholars? Shouldn't the challenge and the rigor come from the teacher and the curriculum?
In the end, the proof is in the results. Whether the school leadership or anyone else thinks the idea is great or terrible, the results should guide our view. And what has been the results?
The portion of Washington Spectrum-eligible students getting Level 4 scores on the English SBAC are:
6th grade: 71%
7th grade: 63%
8th grade: 51%
This is clear evidence that students who start out working beyond Standards slip back while at Washington. While I wish we had other data points, we don't. If you want to know if high achieving students continue to be high achieving students when they go to Washington Middle School and are placed in mixed ability classrooms, this is the evidence you would seek - the share of them who get Level 4 scores on the state tests over time, and this evidence clearly suggests that the high achieving students are NOT well served by Washington.
What about HCC students at Washington? They are still taught in self-contained classes for English. What has been their experience?
The portion of Washington HCC students getting Level 4 scores on the English SBAC are:
6th grade: 88%
7th grade: 72%
9th grade: 80%
Hmm. Those results are more mixed. There is clearly a slip between 6th and 7th grade and from 6th to 8th grade, but half of the loss between 6th and 7th is recovered in 8th grade. While the instruction of HCC students at Washington doesn't move the needle in the right direction, less harm is done.
So, given this data, what is Washington's plan?
There is no stated plan, but there is a goal:
"Our goal is to provide Advanced Learning Opportunities in ELA for all students in blended Spectrum and Scholar classrooms through differentiated instruction; in 6 and 7th grade this occurs in a blended learning environment. Our goal is to realize an 5% increase in Spectrum students in ELA Level 4 and for all of them to achieve at least 3’s as less than 5% earned Level 2"So they have a goal, and a person, Amy Arvidson, assigned to the goal. Their plan, such as it is, is to provide Advanced Learning Opportunities through differentiated instruction. In other words, their plan is to increase the rigor for these students - not through the mix of students in the classroom, but by putting more challenging and rigorous material before them. That's how they increase rigor when they want to see academic results instead of political results. Wouldn't that be easier to do if these children were all together in one classroom? In case you're wondering, the Washington Middle School web site says that Amy Arvidson is a teacher at Washington.
I have read a lot of CSIPs and this one is typical in its optimism that differentiated instruction can be easily sprinkled onto any classroom, like so much magical pixie dust, to increase the rigor for advanced learners. The funny thing, of course, is that these schools all claim that they already provide differentiated instruction. I guess they just need to do more of it. But aren't they already doing as much as they can? How much pixie dust have they been holding back and what were they saving it for?
Washington's experiment has failed and needs to be undone. They did not get the results they were hoping to get. Instead, they are clearly damaging the achievement of Spectrum-eligible students. If any other group of students was seeing their achievement fall this disastrously, there would be a lot of talk about making big changes. So let's talk about making big changes. Let's restore the self-contained ELA classes for Spectrum students at Washington. It's just two classes a day out of six. The Spectrum-eligible students will still be mixed in with the Scholars for two-thirds of the day and it will be a lot easier for the teachers to differentiate instruction across fewer skill levels.