Teachers are dealing with classes of 25-30 students where the capability gap between the least and most capable students is huge. What this potentially translates into is the least capable students get most of the teachers time while the more capable students have to more or less teach themselves. There is a range of differentiated learning strategies that can be brought to bear but this does not change the likelihood that lower capability students will get the bulk of teacher time and energy. Current thinking is that this is fair and equitable ie that teachers apply effort where it is needed the most. I am not convinced either way, and find myself with some questions:
- Is it fair and equitable for a small set of students to monopolize the teachers time?
- Is it cost effective to raise the capability of at-risk students by focusing teachers time on them in a mixed ability classroom, or would it be better to place them in a classroom with specialized teachers and significantly lower teacher/student ratios (and therefore at a much higher cost)
- Can we implement reading and maths recovery programs widely throughout secondary schools? Has a cost benefit analysis been done on this?
- Can the use of technology help or hinder this challenge?
- Is there a natural rate of failure (just like the natural rate of unemployment)? And the best strategy is to develop more courses around life skills rather than academic success?