New research suggests we shouldn't group kids by ability, because, in that situation, children with the poorest language skills lose ground
Children going to preschool often learn as much from each other as they do from the teacher. This is especially true when it comes to language. A recently published study found that children who start out with the poorest language skills tended to lose ground when they were placed in the lowest ability classes but improved their language skills when they were placed in average-ability classes.
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About half the children who attend preschool are in programs that are subsidized by state or federal money. Many, if not most, of these programs only enroll children with a demonstrated economic need and who often start off at increased risk for poor language skills. The programs often cluster these children together in the same classrooms. The study findings say this isn't the way to go.
The study looked at 338 children in 48 different preschool classrooms. It measured the children's grammar skills, vocabulary, and ability to discuss what was happening in a picture book. Children were tested in the fall and again in the spring, to give a picture of their improvement over the school year.