Adolescent learners vary widely in their physical, emotional, and cognitive development. For many teachers, the most challenging aspect of teaching middle school students is the constant problem solving energy required to meet their diverse needs. When diversity is at its peak, we are sometimes left feeling that short of super-human feats on the part of heroic teachers, it’s not possible to meet the varied needs of the children before us.
When varied learner readiness is the aspect of diversity confronting us, it can be a challenge to ensure academic growth for all. If students are falling through cracks, a common response is to track students into ability-based classes. Whether we isolate high achieving students into accelerated courses, learning disabled students into special education classes, students who have fallen behind into remedial classes, or English language learners into a stream of their own, we frequently do so at a cost to both the students themselves and to the mainstream population from which they’ve been separated. If we embrace full inclusion without applying effective differentiation strategies, we fail as well. Diverse classrooms where every learner makes significant progress are possible in part through tiered instruction and assessment.