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To Stream or not to Stream?

July 23, 2015
By: 
Sarah Dalzell

DISCLAIMER: Streaming and Integration both have value,  I only aim to offer a different perspective and begin a conversation about how best to meet the needs of all our students. Should we invest resources into streamed programs, as a way to more effectively target our intervention efforts?

There has been a constant be tug-a-war of opinions as to wether or not to stream students within the education system. This conversation tends to revolve around students that bring a specific, and most often, a challenging set of needs to the classroom environment. Although both streaming and integration of students comes with advantages and disadvantages, I have seen first hand the positive results of having a class tailored to target intervention toward a specific set of student needs. 

Why not stream?

There seems to be a stigma attached to the concept of streaming. People argue that streaming can be harmful to a students social well-being, as the child is ‘labeled’. People also see streaming as a form of exclusion, as students are seen as being separated, and isolated from their peer group.

As a teacher of a streamed grade 6/7 intensive literacy class I recognize that I have a bias toward having the option to stream. A program like intensive literacy offers a smaller class size where students receive regular 1 on 1, or small group support with an fully adapted/individualized program. Comments from students and parents, have indicated that the small, targeted class sizes has not only facilitated academic growth, but built confidence, and reignited a love of learning.For students like mine, that bring a specific set of needs, a traditional 24 student classroom was not meeting their academic or the social/emotional needs – and this is not for lack of effort on the teachers part. The nature of our streamed class has allowed me, as the classroom teacher, target intervention, without removing students from the classroom community on a daily basis – instead, the intervention is embedded in whole class practice. Because my students all entered the program with similar struggles, they have grown to understand each others frustrations and stressors, and have been able support one another both academically, and emotionally.

I feel the general outlook on streaming needs to shift. It is time to remove the negative stigma, a stigma views streaming as potentially harmful to students. As a society we need to recognize, value, and accept diversity in learners and design a system that more effectively targets the needs of the students. Standardizing classrooms is not the answer.  Students are unique, as is their learning style, and set of needs. Classes need to mirror this diversity. Our system needs to offer a variety of options to better target and support intervention efforts & effectively meet the needs of our students.

What are your thoughts on streaming students to target intervention efforts?


Sarah is currently a student on the MA in Educational Leadership and Management program at Royal Roads. To read more of her blog posts please visit her personal blog.