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Cluster Grouping
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Cluster Grouping FAQ

Cluster Grouping FAQ

Cluster Grouping 

Talent Development and Advanced Academics has teamed up with the Multi-Lingual and Special Education departments in MPS to create a protocol for grouping of students in grades K-8 in all of the Minneapolis Public Schools. Research shows that ALL students, including average and below average students, benefit when gifted students are placed in their own cluster (Gentry, 1999; Brulles, 2005). MPS data shows that schools who cluster show more gains on the MCA testing than those who do not cluster. 


The Purposes of Clustering Advanced Learners

All children do not learn in the same way and at the same pace. Instruction must be modified 

for students who already know the material or are capable of learning the material more quickly.

The purposes of cluster grouping are fourfold:

  1.  to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to advanced learners with similar educational needs.
  2. to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to advanced learners of similar educational needs;
  3. to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs in the most conducive manner;
  4. to allow advanced learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.


Cluster grouping is the vehicle educators can use to advance all learner’s access to appropriately challenging learning at the level and complexity they need. Grouping can also increase the ability of teachers to meet the individual academic needs of Advanced Learners by reducing the range of student achievement levels in the classroom (Coleman, 1995; Delcourt & Evans, 1994; Gentry, 1999; Rogers, 1993).


Cluster grouping is a process of intentionally scheduling and placing EL, SPED and Advanced Learners in the same general education classroom for the purpose of ensuring inclusive academic instruction. When implementing clustering, teachers are able to spend more time focused on the unique learning needs of specific students. This increases the opportunity for planning and sustaining academic rigor, holding high expectations for the students, engaging students in quality interactions, maintaining a language focus, and developing quality curriculum (Walqui and Van Lier, 2010). 


What Does Cluster Grouping Mean for Advanced Learners?A group of identified gifted students are clustered in a mixed-abilityclassroom. The teacher has had training in how to teach exceptionally capable students. If there are more than six-eight gifted students, two or more clusters could be formed. High-average students are then placed into classrooms without the gifted clusters to balance out the classes in every grade. 


Isn't Cluster Grouping The Same As Tracking?No. In a tracking system, all students are grouped by ability, and students tend to remain in the same track throughout their school experience. In a tracking system, a different curriculum is assigned to the different tracks. When cluster grouping, all classrooms focus on grade level standards, making extensions and acceleration available to students who have already mastered grade level standards. Gifted students benefit from learning together, and need to be placed with similar students in their areas of strength (Hoover, Sayler, & Feldhusen, 1993; Kulik & Kulik, 1990; Rogers, 1993). Cluster grouping of gifted students allows them to learn together, while avoiding permanent grouping arrangements for students of other ability levels.


What Are The Advantages Of Cluster Grouping? Allstudents feel more comfortable when there are other students just like them in the class. They are more likely to choose more challenging tasks when other students will also be eligible. Teachers no longer have to deal with the strain of trying to meet the needs of just one student in a class. Teachers are also much more likely to provide appropriate learning opportunities if more than one student will benefit. 

Susan Weinbrenner’s Research on Cluster Groupingand Marcia Gentry’s Research regarding clustering students.