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Catering to all levels of student achievement
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2014 10:34 AM

In most classes, students can be separated into three categories: those who are struggling to understand the material, average students, and those who grasp it quickly. The Common Core State Standards, aligned curricula and teachers are tasked with catering to all of these individuals, which is certainly difficult. How educators seek to serve all students depends largely on the age group they work with, and even with strategies of dividing time between students, some schools still don't meet everyone's learning needs. Here's a look at how teachers in different grades deal with varying skill levels:

In elementary school
Elementary school teachers have the difficult job of identifying which students need extra aid and which are far beyond their peers. Once they know the unique needs of their students, educators must find a way to divide their time between helping some and challenging others. In Common Core states, all students of the same grade have the same curriculum, meaning high-achieving students don't follow unique and more challenging curriculum. In general, the Common Core is meant to be more challenging than past education standards, but that's not enough for some students. Teachers might have students who finish their work before others start new assignments, help struggling peers or read independently.

In high school
High school presents more opportunities for high-achieving students to find challenge. They can take advanced placement courses instead of the standard level most students take. In theory, AP is supposed to have the same level of difficulty as a freshman-year college class. While AP helps divide students by achievement, each class can still be diverse. Perhaps students in standard courses should be in an AP class - a teacher will have to identify that and recommend the student for a transfer. Even in AP classes, some students are more advanced than others.

Achievement and background
According to a study conducted by the Education Trust, many high-achieving students from low socioeconomic backgrounds do progressively worse throughout the course of high school. They enter freshman year with high grades, then perform at a lower level every year. These students who have the potential to earn high grades and go to a great college don't get there. The report noted that this may be, in fact, because they lack the support from educators and challenge that they need to stay motivated.

"Serving high-achieving students well is a serious responsibility for our high schools," Christina Theokas, director of research at the Education Trust and co-author of the report, said in a statement. "Our nation can't afford this loss of potential. With attention, schools and educators can disrupt the inequitable outcomes experienced by black and Latino students and students from less advantaged backgrounds."