Carmel Clay Schools superintendent: Total School Cluster Grouping ‘not on the table’


In March 2018, Carmel Clay Schools announced it would “temporarily postpone” transitioning its elementary school high-ability programming to the Total School Cluster Grouping model, which groups students at different learning levels together in the classroom.

It appears that delay has become permanent.

CCS Supt. Michael Beresford is more than halfway through a tour of the district’s 12 elementary schools, where he’s been meeting with parents to provide an update on the review of the high-ability program and listen to feedback.

Beresford expects to finish a rough draft report of the program review by March, and he said it’s too early to reveal what changes – if any – might be coming. But one thing seems certain: CCS will not be implementing TSCG.

“That’s not on the table,” Beresford said Jan. 17 after a parent meeting at Forest Dale Elementary.

Beresford said the Purdue study that recommended TSCG has merit but that each student and learning style is unique, making it impossible to use a grouping formula to create the best classrooms.

“Bucketing is just not a good idea, and it’s not appropriate,” he said. “Would some kids who are in the middle of the pack fit in well with a cluster class? Yeah, some of them would.”

He added that the people who know the students best, such as teachers and – to some extent – parents, should determine how to build classrooms.

At some CCS campuses, high-ability students are taught in self-contained classroom by a teacher trained to meet their needs. At other schools, some of the classes with high-ability students also include general education students to balance class sizes and address other factors.

Since the March 2018 announcement that CCS would adopt TSCG, many parents have urged CCS to keep the high-ability students grouped together with a trained high-ability teacher. Other parents of high-ability students, however, have asked for mixed classrooms. Beresford said.

“There’s not a one-size fits all (answer), because we’re dealing with little human beings, not test scores and numbers,” Beresford said.

After wrapping up the parent meetings in early February, Beresford plans to draft a report and share it with high-ability teachers and parents. After gathering feedback on the draft, he plans to present the final report to the school board.

Beresford said he’s hearing similar themes at the parent meetings, but he didn’t want to elaborate before all parents have had an opportunity to give feedback. He said the final report could conclude that the district should revamp parts of the program, conduct additional research or determine that it’s working well as is.

“There may be no changes. We’re not locked into a menu,” Beresford said. “At the end of the day, our results could be that we’re not going to change anything. It could be we’re going to tweak some things.”