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The Building Program's Relation

A

to Ability Grouping

Although an accepted procedure in American education, a
greater development of ability grouping has been forestalled
by lack of classroom facilities, as in Lynn, Massachusetts

BY SAMUEL ENGLE BURR, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, LYNN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, LYNN, MASS.

BILITY grouping of pupils has become an accepted procedure in American public education. Its effectiveness in instructional success has been proved, yet its adoption is far from universal. One reason for this is that it is based upon scientific procedures that are not yet universally practiced-there are still many schools that do not use objective means for measuring the finer variations in the ability of pupils. Another reason has been the plea of un-Americanism in ability grouping. As a matter of fact, it is the only fair and democratic method of grouping, giving, as it does, each pupil a chance to profit to the best of his ability, by the teaching program. But one of the chief causes (and the least recognized) for failing to group children on an ability basis has been the lack of harmony between the scientific procedure and the building construction program.

We believe that our public schools should have as their basic aim, the giving of the best possible educational opportunities to every child. If we are to put this into practical operation, then all the departments of the school plant must plan their actions with this purpose in view.

Group Instruction Best

Modern conditions make it necessary for us to handle large groups of pupils. Educational research has proved that group instruction is the best method to use, insofar as results are concerned. It has also been established that better results can be secured from group instruction when we use homogeneous rather than heterogeneous grouping. Consequently, the psychological basis of the teaching, the supervisory program, the course of study, the business and executive management, and the schoolhouse building construction program must all be worked out upon a basis of the ability grouping of pupils.

Our modern educational research has devised successful objective methods for mental measure

ment that have made it possible to carry ability diagnosis to a greater degree of fineness than ever before. In order to use this new possibility, two distinctive types of schools that base their practice upon the recognition of individual differences have developed in this country.

One type centers its practices about the recognition of the individual as such-the Winnetka and Dalton plans are examples. The other type recognizes individual differences, but classifies each pupil as a member of a general group, basing its practices upon group instruction. These are the schools that use ability grouping to its fullest extent, and they far outnumber the schools working upon the complete individualistic plan. Four Steps of Ability Grouping

A full acceptance of ability grouping involves four distinct steps.1

The first step is the grouping into grades of work or years of experience. This has had almost universal adoption, even in the one-room rural school.

Then comes the segregation of highly exceptional pupils of all types into special classes designed for them. Thus we have special classes for the feeble-minded and dull pupils, for pupils foreign to English, for pupils with physical handicaps, speech difficulties, and others.

Next, the pupils of any grade level can be grouped into sections according to their ability to succeed in school work. Some teachers refer to this step alone as "ability grouping."

Finally, any plan of ability grouping must be flexible, subject to adjustment whenever and wherever necessary, and must be fully supplemented by expert coaching teacher work.2

Such ability grouping has advantages that are

1 For a more complete explanation of the proposals for classification and grouping, see "Ideals in Pupil Classification," Journal of Education, Vol. CVI, No. 21, Dec. 5, 1927, p. 551.

2 For the plans involving the work of the coaching teacher, in Lynn, Mass., and in Lawrence Township, N. J., see "The Work of the Coaching Teacher," Journal of Education, Vol. CVII, No. 9, Feb. 27, 1928, p. 275, and "The Coaching Teacher at Work," Journal of Education, Vol. CVII. No. 15, April 9, 1928, p. 442.

immediately apparent and that are constantly being emphasized and recommended by our educational leaders. At the recent meeting of the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association in Boston, this subject appeared on the program and was again advocated in detail. Several of the most recent books on education present concrete evidence of its worth, not only in the elementary field, but in the secondary field as well. The recent survey of our Lynn school system developed specific plans for its extension here."

Report of the Survey of the Schools of Lynn, Mass. Made by the Institute of Educational Research, Division of Field Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University. Published by Bureau of Publications,

In order to section pupils upon an ability basis, within a grade, it is necessary to have at least two classrooms of each grade, in one building. Better results can be secured with three or more classes per grade accommodated under one roof. This means that a primary building serving grades I, II, and III, should have at least six classrooms, and preferably more. Similarly, an elementary or grammar school serving only grades IV, V, and VI, should have at least six rooms, in order to secure best results. Again, a building designed to serve all the lower grades Teachers College. Columbia University, 368 pp. Chapter V, on "Classification and Progress," outlines the development of this extension work in detail.

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from I to VI, inclusive, should not be planned with less than twelve or fifteen regular classrooms. All these buildings should have one or two special rooms as well. Only by such planning can the full fruits of modern measuring and testing programs be secured.

Of course, there are small communities and sparsely settled regions where elementary schoolhouses of this size are impossible. In such situations, the teacher staff must do its best to recognize the individual differences disclosed, but it will require greater teaching skill to bring out the same results that we can confidently expect under the ability grouping plan. Unfortunately, such small communities seldom can afford to pay for this superior type of teaching service. As a consequence, the larger school system, which uses. ability grouping, secures the expert teacher instead of the small system.

Also Appears in Secondary Schools

This same problem of ability grouping also presents itself in the secondary-school field, but as high schools are usually larger in size, and as the problem of ability grouping can be handled there without so much bearing upon the building program, it will not be considered in the present discussion.

At the time of the school survey made during the winter of 1926-27, thirty-nine elementary schools were in operation in Lynn. These are shown in the accompanying table, together with the date of construction and the number of rooms in each. Eight of these buildings had only two rooms each, twelve had only four rooms, and twenty-two of them had only one classroom per grade. In other words, in twenty-two of these buildings, ability grouping could not be used. Out of about 9,000 pupils enrolled in the elementary grades in January, 1927, slightly more than one-third of the children could not be grouped on an ability basis because of this imperfect building program. Another third could be grouped only imperfectly upon a scientific basis for this same reason. Less than 3,000 elementary children were in buildings large enough to permit three or more sections per grade.1

If the small buildings had been in good condition or had been of recent construction, it might have proved difficult to discontinue their use, even though they did not meet the educational requirements of to-day. The table shows, however, that most of them have seen long service. They are not in the best repair. Their sites are inadequate and poorly chosen.

4 Figures from Lynn School Survey Report mentioned previously, pp. 166 and 200.

The combining of these materialistic factors with the educational need has now secured official action that will immediately eliminate ten of these small buildings. They will be noted under the "Remarks" column of the accompanying table on page 53.

Factors Permitting the Change

The action that is making this change possible is as follows:

1. One junior high school is now operating on a part-time schedule in one of the senior highschool buildings, its own remodeled building now being used by the Cobbet elementary school.

2. The Tracy School, which contained twelve rooms before the recent fire, is being rebuilt to contain eighteen classrooms, not including special

rooms.

3. Another junior high school is now housed in two buildings. One of these is to be enlarged. The other building will be remodeled for elementary classes and will become an eighteenroom elementary school.

4. A third junior high school has an elementary-school wing that is to be increased to double its present size.

5. A new twelve-room elementary school will be erected in the southeast section of the city.

Other building operations are planned, but these five steps are the ones that will affect the possibility of ability grouping in the elementary grades.

In addition to these actual building operations, other adjustments will be made. For example, in three cases, there are two substantial, serviceable buildings located within a single block. For purposes of grouping, these three sets of buildings will be considered as only three units. They are the Lewis-Sanborn, the Highland-Cook, and the

Burrill-Bruce.

Progress Accomplished With Program

As a result of these adjustments, which must be considered the first steps of an ambitious program, only eleven buildings will remain, where ability grouping by sectioning within grades will be impossible, rather than the twenty-two buildings thus limited, in January, 1927. In terms of pupils, it will leave only 1,500 pupils who cannot be grouped on an ability basis, rather than somewhat in excess of 3,000 who could not be grouped thus in January, 1927.

In other words, the possibilities for the ability grouping of pupils are being taken into account as important factors in the building construction program now going forward in the Lynn Public Schools.

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Underwood & Underwood

School Savings Banking Shows
Steady Increase

EVEN years ago, the savings bank division

of the American Bankers Association, reported 2,736 schools having school savings. As of June 30, 1927, the number was 12,678, according to W. Espey Albig, deputy manager of the division. The number of pupils enrolled in schools having a school savings system has increased from 1,015,653 to 4,658,156 in that sevenyear period. The number of pupils participating in school savings has increased from 462,651 to 3,815,785.

Seven years ago the deposits amounted to $2,800,000, while those for the year ending June 30, 1927, totaled approximately $23,700,000. The net savings on the same date were $9,464,178.93, and the bank balances $39,137,073.91.

In comparison with the previous year, the number of schools increased 11.4 per cent; the number of pupils enrolled in the schools having a school savings system, 7.8 per cent; the number partici

pating, 12.1 per cent; the deposits, 15.7 per cent; and the net savings, 7.9 per cent.

Various attempts have been made to explain the growth of school savings in the United States, which, beginning in the nineteenth century, made indifferent progress until about ten years ago. A study of the statistical tables reveals the fact that the progress of school savings is generally forward in any state where once it has gained a considerable foothold. It develops most rapidly in towns and cities. The cause of this comes from the fact that in urban centers most persons receive their pay at stated periods, and the children enter into school savings with greater assurance of continued participation.

In a number of states-California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin-school savings have assumed really large

proportions. In seven states gross deposits for the year have passed the million mark. In New York gross deposits are in excess of three and one-half million dollars, and in Pennsylvania, in excess of four million dollars.

The persistent and steady increase in deposits in school savings accounts seems to have as its basic factor the desire of the parents to have their children learn the meaning and use of money.

School savings in its inception attracted little attention from educators. As it has assumed a larger place in the educational field, educators are coming to appreciate more and more its value.

The fear that has haunted many advocates of the teaching of income management in the schools -that the expense incurred by the depository bank handling the school savings would eventually

prove a bar to the continuation of school savings-has not been realized, and many banks which are acting as depositories at considerable financial expense regard the department of school savings as one of their most valuable contributions to society.

There is no doubt but that the mounting deposits under school savings have been the cause of considerable research as to the basic factors that have caused the whole school savings movement to grow.

The American people have the happy faculty, either by conscious thought or by indirection, of placing in the school those subjects that should be universally taught and in which instruction may be better imparted than anywhere else. Impartial evaluation of courses of study in the pub

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Totals

11,371 12,678 3,403,746 3,815,785 $20,469,960.88 $23,703,436.80 $8,770,731.05 $9,464,178.93

1 Loss.

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