cluster-grouping model gives teachers
more time to work with individual students (Gentry & MacDougall, 2008).
Administrators who implement
cluster-grouping models are sometimes tempted to place high-achieving
students in classes with gifted students.
This approach is problematic for two
reasons. First, clustering all high-achieving and gifted students in one
class resembles tracking and decreases
the likelihood for success. All classes
benefit from having high-ability or
high-achieving students. Second, high-achieving students frequently emerge as
academic leaders when not placed with
The inclusive nature of cluster
grouping recognizes that not all gifted
students are high achievers; rather, the
manner in which they acquire information necessitates a difference in instruction and curriculum. Gifted students
make intuitive leaps in their thinking,
require fewer repetitions to master
new concepts, accelerate through the
curriculum at a faster rate, and think
more critically and with greater depth
and complexity than students of average
Cluster grouping embraces all gifted
students regardless of their current levels of productivity—this includes gifted
students who are twice exceptional;
English language learners; and students
who are culturally diverse, poor, or in
the primary grades (Brulles & Lansdowne, 2008).
FIGURE 1. Recommended Classroom Composition for Cluster Grouping
for a Single Grade Level
Classroom Gifted High Average
Low Average Far Below Average
Source: From The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How to Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement
for All (p. 14), by S. Winebrenner and D. Brulles, 2008, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Free Spirit Publishing.
Copyright 2008 by Free Spirit Publishing. Used with permission.
Test, and also through IQ tests, such as
the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and
the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. The “gifted” identification relates
to students’ potential for learning; it
doesn’t reflect knowledge that students
have already acquired. Also, the gifted
identification relates to overall general
ability. Students who are identified as
gifted are automatically placed into
gifted cluster classes regardless of their
areas of strength.
Before making student placements,
teachers assign their students to one
of five categories (Winebrenner &
Brulles, 2008). Teachers determine
group assignments through formal and
informal methods that include standardized test data, teacher observations, and
other standardized and anecdotal data.
Students are assigned to groups with
the following descriptors:
with some support.
Gifted cluster groups typically consist
of four to nine gifted students, who
make up approximately 20–25 percent
of the class. When the number of gifted
students exceeds nine, a second gifted
cluster classroom is often formed.
Giftedness is measured through ability tests, such as the Cognitive Abilities
Test and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability
What Teachers Need to Know
Cluster grouping recognizes that gifted
students need to be challenged daily
in all subject areas (Hoover, Sayler, &
Feldhusen, 1993). This requires the
daily attention of teachers who have a
certification in gifted education or who
participate in ongoing training in that
field. It also requires a sustained focus
on documenting student progress,
which cluster grouping facilitates.
Monitoring Student Progress
The cluster-grouping approach is similar to Response to Intervention (RTI),