Readiness v. Ability
Blog reader Robin, the mom of a highly gifted sixth grader, sent me this link to the Duke Gifted Letter the other day. This particular issue has a two expert back-and-forth about abilty grouping.
While the evidence from various studies shows that ability grouping is the best option for gifted kids (kids learn best when they're challenged in an environment with their intellectual peers) it remains somewhat controversial. Schools usually tolerate different math groups, for instance, but won't differentiate for most other subjects until high school.
Anyway, one of the experts interviewed for the Duke letter said that "readiness" was a much more potent word than "ability." Reading into her words, I think she means that ability implies something set and unchanging -- it's a value judgement. But readiness is a simple statement of the facts. Some kids are ready for more advanced reading, and some aren't ready yet. That doesn't mean they won't ever be ready. They just aren't right now. "Readiness grouping" implies a correct match, at a particular point in time, for a kid's needs.
So I think it's a great phrase, one gifted advocates should consider using instead of "ability grouping." I'm curious what everyone else thinks.