Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dumbing Up, Dumbing Down

I know it's not polite to refer to it as "Dumbing up, dumbing down." I'm sure I should call the practice "modification" or, since that became a Bad Word in our school last year, "accommodation." Or even "differentiated learning strategy" which is being tossed around our school a lot this year, yet no one seems to actually know what real differentiated learning strategies look like.

But I'm getting very frustrated with the lack of concrete strategies offered specifically for on-level students. I teach on-level students by choice. I've taught pre-AP in middle and high school, and I have nothing in particular against them. I've just found that I enjoy the on-level classroom more.

On Monday's professional development day I went to two different meetings which both presented strategies intended for other levels (one higher, one lower) and was treated yet again to the advice to "accommodate" my on-level students with a modified version of the strategy that would be appropriate for them. For instance, Writer's Notebook tasks and ideas for elementary school children, reading strategies for learning disabled students, and a grammar activity for AP students that would have to be completely disemboweled for the on-level classroom.

It isn't that I don't think ideas from other levels and sources can't be valuable. I just wonder why the perception of on-level students is that they are either slightly advanced middle schoolers, or slightly slow gifted students, rather than individual learners.

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