Teaching Letter to the Editor

High-Quality Instruction, Not Differentiation, Is the Key

January 20, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

James R. Delisle has earned our congratulations for calling out differentiated instruction as a fad that is simply not workable in real classrooms. Likewise, he has earned an equal amount of criticism from us for his conclusion that we must return to tracking and homogeneous classrooms to meet students’ needs.

Mr. Delisle, like most other fad supporters and opponents, appears to ignore examining the single most important variable that impacts student learning: effective instruction.

The modern classroom continues to be a heterogeneous place, with large class sizes. The range of abilities, languages, attention disorders, and other variables will remain more of a constant. Given the variables, it is virtually impossible for even the most experienced and creative teacher to implement a differentiated instructional model with fidelity.

The most logical and common-sense approach to the reality of the modern classroom is to approach it with a “whole class” learning model and also to bring to bear, as needed, the pedagogical skills required to move the slower students along with the rest of the class.

The best instructional model, historically and at present, is direct instruction—a highly structured, teacher-guided instruction method with a limited number of variables for students to confront. A focused instructional model, implemented by a competent and confident teacher, can virtually guarantee an initial mastery of the lesson objective by a large majority of students.

If anything leads to the dumbing-down of the curriculum, it has been homogeneous grouping on a class-size scale. Beware of any “solution” or fad that has not first controlled for the most important variable in student achievement: effective instruction.

Randall Olson


Gene Tavernetti


Total Educational Systems Support

Fresno, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2015 edition of Education Week as High-Quality Instruction, Not Differentiation, Is the Key


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion The Most Important Lessons Teachers Impart Are Not 'Dictated by a Pacing Guide'
For true learning to occur, lessons need to be put into context, not designed to be checked off a to-do list.
14 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Teaching Knock Out Those Letters of Recommendation: Pro Tips From Teachers
Teachers dish on best practices for students' letters of recommendation.
3 min read
Image shows University Application Acceptance Notification Letter with ACCEPTED Stamp
Teaching Opinion Sage Advice From Veteran Teachers to Those New to the Classroom
Teachers can learn a lot by tapping into their fellow teachers and other school staff as well as students.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Teaching Opinion I'm a Student. Here's Why Group Work Feels So Unfair
I get a sinking feeling of dread from the fear of an uneven distribution of work. Here's what I wish teachers would do instead.
Yun F. Zheng
3 min read
Illustration of students meeting.
<b>F. Sheehan / Education Week / Getty</b>