More on Education – Differentiating Instruction

I believe that readers of “MaryElizabethSings” will appreciate this post which I just placed on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s blog entitled, “Get Schooled,” under the supervision of AJC educational columnist Maureen Downey.  Readers should read Ms. Downey’s entire thread which highlights the direction that Georgia’s Department of Education is moving in better educating all of Georgia’s students, with precision.  The link to Ms. Downey’s article is:

My post, in which I describe differentiated instruction, and the need for it, in detail, is posted below:

“I wish that I had more time to give more thoughts, of the moment, on this very important thread topic, but I simply do not. So, as second best, I will offer a couple of additional links to my blog which may help some teachers to be able to differentiate instruction with more ease. The bottom line is that students MUST be taught where they are functioning or they will NOT learn and grow – and will drop out of school, in large part, as a result. This is not their fault, in large part. It is the fault of the educational system’s not addressing effectively where each student is functioning. Educators, from the highest ranks to the lowest, must take ownership of that failure in design in public education and correct it. This is a main way to make our traditional public schools more successful with all students.

To class80olddog:
If I had had a chance to respond to your posts to me yesterday, I was going to write that it seemed to me that you were not an actual teacher from your posts which explained why you do not think that teachers can differentiate instruction effectively with the variations that exist with students. Two constructive thoughts: First, educators simply cannot put a 9th grade student who is reading on 3rd grade level (and who may have already failed two grades and be 16 years old) in a class with 8 year olds who are reading on 3rd grade level. Secondly, even if a given child were to be failed to “catch up” with his peers, he might not be able to keep up with the rate of their learning which would precipitate more “failing” in a vicious cycle of failure until he drops out of school. I do not think you grasp in detail what teachers already are dealing with daily, in terms of differentiating their instruction. In reading your posts to me from yesterday, it seemed to me that you were visualizing and thinking about instructional problems in public schools in the abstract, and not in the concrete from actually having had teaching experience. As a result, it is no surprise that what IS possible for teachers to accomplish does not seem possible to you. Thereafter, I read Original Prof’s post to you in which she mentioned that you were a businessman, not a teacher. I truly think that that is the reason that you are not able to visualize what teachers can, and do, accomplish with students of varied skills and abilities in the same classes, daily. Perhaps, if nothing else this thread and the comments of posters who are or have been teachers will alert the general public that teaching is a demanding and highly skilled profession and that it is led by professionals. That training and experience in the field is why educators need to control education, with parent input, and not the other way around.

So, here are a couple of my links which will, in the first one, describe how I differentiated instruction in my classes when I was a teacher of a college prep reading course, and, in the second link, I offer some additional thoughts about how to differentiate instruction. 

(PLEASE NOTE: I have not refined and edited my blog threads, in great detail, yet for conciseness because I am working on a couple of other projects at the moment, but I will do so in the years to come. In the meantime, I felt that it was better to get the knowledge about instruction which I have accrued over the years “out there” now on my blog, and refine my entries later. My apologies for the length of some of my blog’s posts, as a result of lack of time to edit in detail currently.) 

(1) Entitled: “Ways to Teach Students Who Are Functioning On Different Instructional Levels In The Same Grade”

(2) Entitled: ‘My Thoughts For Improving Public Education” 


Another Poster: “Overall my kids did well. I was surprised that the higher level kids were generally the ones who showed the most growth, though. Counter-intuitive”

Mary Elizabeth: “No really counter-intuitive. The most acadimic growth will, more than likely, show forth with those students who have the highest IQs because they generally will learn at a faster rate, with mastery, than will those students with average and lower than average IQs.

ADDENDUM to my 12:11 a.m. post.

Allow me to demonstrate to this reading audience, very specifically, through my example of an opposite case of “Another Poster’s” high level students, regarding how a student who is functioning on a low level in comparison with his age peers, and who also happens to have a lower than average IQ, will not progress as much in a year as much as his average and above average IQ age peers. After you read, below, what happens to “Johnny” over the years in becoming significantly behind his age peers, perhaps you will use your imaginations to envision how students (such as Another Poster’s) who have IQs above the average for their age groups will progress (or grow) more than those who have lower IQs in a given year.

Also, when you read Johnny’s case in detail, perhaps you (the reading audience) can better understand why students have a wider range of functioning levels in the higher grades than in the lower grades. This instructional phenomenon will always be true because students (and people) will always have varied IQ. levels. This is no one’s “fault” – not the parents, not the teachers, not the students. However, as educators, we must address this forever present wide range of students’ functioning levels in every grade level from k-12, or we will not reach, nor be successful with, every student throughout his/her tenure in public elementary, middle, and high schools.


‘I was taught, as a graduate student, that if a student is reading within two years of his grade level, that he will be able to function in the reading requirements for that grade level. This means that if a 7th grade student is reading on 5th grade level that he will be able to function in the material for the 7th grade, but if he is reading on 4th grade level or below, in 7th grade, then he will not be able to function on 7th grade material.

Now, in considering the variable of IQ score, Johnny has scored in the IQ range of 83 to 88 for several years. That means that he is probably below average in his innate potential. One could, then, reasonably expect Johnny to grow 7 months in a 12 month period. Let’s say Johnny is in 2nd grade and he is reading on grade level 1.5 which is sufficient for him to function in 2nd grade. Next, he enters 3rd grade and he is reading on 2.2 grade level, having grown 7 months in 2nd grade. Johnny should still be able to learn and grow in 3rd grade because he is not reading more than two years behind 3rd grade level. So, he grows another 7 months in 3rd grade, with good instruction, based on his potential.

Now, we have Johnny in 4th grade and he has advanced in his reading skills to 2.9 grade level, which is within the two year cut off point for being able to master the curriculum for 4th grade. Next year, Johnny is in 5th grade and, having advanced 7 months in a year, he is reading on 3.6 grade level, but he can still cope. The next year, in 6th grade, Johnny is only reading on 4.3 grade level which is barely sufficient for coping with 6th grade material. In 7th grade, Johnny is only reading on 5.0 grade level, and he just barely passes his classes, but he does pass to 8th grade. In 8th grade, he reading on 5.7 grade level. Each year, then, from 2nd grade to 8th grade, Johnny has made his maximum progress which was – based on his IQ potential – 7 months of growth for a year’s work.

Johnny has been promoted to 8th grade because he passed 7th grade curriculum, but he is only reading on 5.7 grade level in the 8th grade, or more than two years behind his grade level. Therefore, although his 8th grade teacher may be a good teacher, Johnny may not advance 7 months in the 8th grade, as before, because he will have been taught on his frustration level during his 8th grade year. Johnny’s teacher was not aware of his IQ scores, nor of his academic developmental history, which had shown how he finally reached an academic frustration point in his 8th grade school year. In fact, Johnny may even regress in his reading skills in 8th grade because he will have spent a year being taught on his frustration level. At the end of his 8th grade year, his reading level may only be 5.5 grade level. When he entered 8th grade, his reading level was 5.7 grade level. His teacher is surprised that she received a poor rating based on Johnny’s 2 months’ regression in his standardized test scores. After all, his previous years’ scores had shown that Johnny could be expected to advance at least 7 months in a year’s time. His teacher does not know why he regressed by 2 months since she had tried so hard to help him grow. Johnny does enter 9th grade, however, because he (barely) passed most of his classes even though he regressed in his standardized reading scores, but now he is only reading on grade level 5.5 in 9th grade, or 3 and 1/2 years behind grade level – a perfect candidate for drop-out status. If teachers had made wise and prudent use of Johnny’s IQ scores, as well as having spent time assessing his developmental history, they might have analyzed his unique needs more wisely, earlier, and they might have provided him with the remediation he needed, earlier, even though he was advancing ‘according to how he had advanced previously.’ ”

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