KS Logo here

Cluster Grouping Of Gifted Students: How To Provide Full-Time Services On A Part-Time Budget

Part 2



ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities And Gifted Education


What Does It Mean To Place Gifted Students In Cluster Groups?

Isn't Cluster Grouping The Same As Tracking?

Why Should Gifted Students Be Placed In A Cluster Group?

What Are The Learning Needs Of Gifted Students?

Isn't Gifted Education Elitist?

Don't We Need Gifted Students In All Classes So They Can Help Others Learn?

If Gifted Students Are Not Placed In Some Classes, Won't Those Classes Lack Positive Role Models?

How Does The Cluster Grouping Concept Fit In With The Inclusion Models?

Won't The Presence Of The Clustered Gifted Students Inhibit The Performance Of The Other Students?

How Should Students Be Identified For The Cluster Group?

What Specific Skills Are Needed By Cluster Teachers?

Should The Cluster Grouping Model Replace Out-Of-Class Enrichment Programs?

Is Clustering Feasible Only In Elementary Schools?

How Are Records Kept Of The Progress Made By Students In Cluster Groups?

What Are The Advantages Of Cluster Grouping?

What Are The Disadvantages Of Cluster Grouping?




Gifted Children

Education and Kids

Related Articles

Challenging Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom

Should Gifted Students Be Grade-Advanced?

Differentiating Curriculum for Gifted Students

Back to Part 1

Should The Cluster Grouping Model Replace Out-Of-Class Enrichment Programs For Gifted Students?

No. Cluster grouping provides an effective complement to any gifted education program. Gifted students need time to be together when they can just "be themselves." The resource teacher might also provide assistance to all classroom teachers in their attempts to differentiate the curriculum for students who need it. As a matter of fact, this resource person is being called a "Schoolwide Enrichment Specialist" in many schools instead of a "Gifted Program Coordinator" in recognition of the fact that so many students can benefit from "enriching" learning opportunities.

Back to the Table of Contents

Is Clustering Feasible Only In Elementary Schools?

No. Cluster grouping may be used at all grade levels and in all subject areas. Gifted students may be clustered in one section of any heterogeneous class, especially when there are not enough students to form an advanced section for a particular subject. Cluster grouping is also a welcome option in rural settings, or wherever small numbers of gifted students make appropriate accommodations difficult. Keep in mind, however, if your school has enough gifted students for separate sections in which curriculum is accelerated, such sections should be maintained. Many middle schools have quietly returned to the practice of offering such sections. Placement in cluster groups is gained by demonstrating that one needs a differentiated curriculum--not by proving one is "gifted."

Back to the Table of Contents

How Are Records Kept Of The Progress Made By Students In Cluster Groups?

Differentiated Educational Plans (DEP) should be maintained for gifted students and filed with their other ongoing records. In some schools, teachers develop a DEP for the cluster group, rather than for individual students. These plans briefly describe the modifications that are planned for the group and should be shared with parents regularly.

Back to the Table of Contents

What Are The Advantages Of Cluster Grouping?

Gifted students 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 precocious student in a class. The school is able to provide a full-time, cost-effective program for gifted students, since their learning needs are being met every day.

Back to the Table of Contents

What Are The Disadvantages Of Cluster Grouping?

There may be pressure from parents to have their children placed in a cluster classroom, even if they are not in the actual cluster group. Gifted students may move into the district during the school year and not be able to be placed in the cluster classroom. These situations may be handled by:

  • providing training for all staff in compacting and differentiation so parents can expect those opportunities in all classes.

  • requiring parents to provide written documentation of their child's need for curriculum differentiation instead of requesting the placement by phone.

  • rotating the cluster teacher assignment every 2 years among teachers who have had appropriate training so parents understand that many teachers are capable of teaching gifted students.

  • rotating other students into cluster classrooms over several years.

Another disadvantage might arise if the cluster teachers are not expected to consistently compact and differentiate the curriculum. Their supervisor must expect them to maintain the integrity of the program, and must provide the needed support by facilitating regular meetings of cluster teachers, and by providing time for the enrichment specialist to assist the cluster teachers.

Back to the Table of Contents


There is an alarming trend in many places to eliminate gifted education programs in the mistaken belief that all students are best served in heterogeneous learning environments. Educators have been bombarded with research that makes it appear that there is no benefit to ability grouping for any students. The work of Allan (1991); Feldhusen (1989); Fiedler, Lange, & Winebrenner (1993); Kulik and Kulik (1990); Rogers (1993) and others clearly documents the benefits of keeping gifted students together in their areas of greatest strength for at least part of the school day. It appears that average and below average students have much to gain from heterogeneous grouping, but we must not sacrifice gifted students' needs in our attempts to find the best grouping practices for all students.

If we do not allow cluster groups to be formed, gifted students may find their achievement and learning motivation waning in a relatively short period of time. Parents of gifted students may choose to enroll their children in alternative programs, such as home schooling or charter schools. The practice of cluster grouping represents a mindful way to make sure gifted students continue to receive a quality education at the same time as schools work to improve learning opportunities for all students.

Back to the Table of Contents


Allan, S. (1991) . Ability grouping research reviews: What do they say about grouping and the gifted? Educational Leadership, 48(6), 60-65.

Feldhusen, J. (1989). Synthesis of research on gifted youth. Educational Leadership, 46(6), 6-11.

Fiedler, E., Lange, R., & Winebrenner, S. (1993). In search of reality: Unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted. Roeper Review, 16(1), 4-7.

Hoover, S., Sayler, M., & Feldhusen, J. (1993). Cluster grouping of gifted students at the elementary level. Roeper Review, 16(1), 13-15.

Kulik, J.A. & Kulik, C-L.C. (1990). Ability grouping and gifted students. In N. Colangelo & G. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (pp.178-196). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Rogers, K. (1993). Grouping the gifted and talented. Roeper Review, 16(1), 8-12.

Schunk, D. H. (1987). Peer models and children's behavioral change. Review of Educational Research, 57, 149-174.

Back to the Table of Contents


Susan Winebrenner, M.S. is the author of "Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom." She is a full time consultant in staff development (1-888-327-3477) and author of several books and articles.

Barbara Devlin, Ph.D. is Superintendent of Schools in Richfield MN.

THE ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE ON DISABILITIES AND GIFTED EDUCATION The Council for Exceptional Children 1920 Association Drive Reston, VA 20191 Toll Free: 1-800-328-0272 TTY: 703-264-9449 E-mail: ericec@cec.sped.org Internet: http://www.cec.sped.org/ericec.htm

ERIC EC Digest #E538 EC304950 August, 1996

This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. RR93002005. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education.


Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | K-12
Education | Health | Recreation | Parenting | Organizations | Store
Home | Media Info | Survey | About Us | Legal

KidSource OnLine KidSource and KidSource OnLine are trademarks of Kidsource OnLine, Inc. Copyright 2009. Other trademarks property of their respective holders.. Created: October 27, 1996 . Last modified time : April 20, 2000 .