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Advice about Differentiated Instruction

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What schools have differentiated instruction?

Sept 2013

We are beginning to have concerns that our kids aren't receiving either very much or quality differentiated instruction. Our kids attend a top Oakland public elementary school (it's rated a 10), however, it has been hit or miss (depending on the teacher) in terms of differentiated instruction. I'm wondering if this type of instruction becomes more prevalent in higher grades (our kids are in 2nd and K)? Also, what schools or districts truly implement differentiated instruction? Berkeley? Lafayette? Albany? Chis


Most schools have differentiated instruction, and the quality of the teacher is always the most important factor in how much kids learn. The type of differentiated instruction varies a lot based on the school and the kids attending each school.

There is an extremely wide range of abilities in younger classes. Some kindergarten kids don't know the alphabet yet, while others are already reading Harry Potter. I watched a talented kindergarten teacher use the same Open Court reading materials to appropriately challenge each child in the class by asking progressively more difficult questions. A good teacher can provide a lot of differentated instruction in the classroom by using more open ended questions. Sometimes it looks deceptively simple, like having a ''number of the day'' assignment, where kids write down as many ways to get to the number as they can (it challenges those beginning to add as much as it challenges kids who can do square roots). Additionally, schools can have classroom aids, pull outs, after school specialized instruction, or other formats that encourage all kids to learn and grow.

Differentiated instruction is really just a tool to help ensure that kids with different abilities or in different phases of development can all learn and be appropriately challenged---all while being assigned to the same classroom. If you focus on the goal of ensuring that your kids are learning and are being appropriately challenged, it will be much more useful to your family. Asking about only about differentiated learning seems like a red herring. If your kids are learning, then it doesn't really matter. If they are bored or not learning enough, then the issue is probably bigger than just whether a school offers differentiated learning. Anon


We have had direct experience with over a dozen schools including public, private, Waldorf, gifted, Montessori. I have yet to see any teacher effectively implement differentiated instruction [especially for a profoundly gifted child]. I have seen teams of teachers effectively meet the needs of a variety of learning level/ style kids by splitting the class into different learning groups. Even then, this seems to meet the needs of the kids closest to the mid-line better than it does the outliers. I wonder if in 10 or 20 years we will look back and say that differentiated instruction was an interesting failed experiment. Wishing you all the best
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this page was last updated: Dec 29, 2013


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