Behind the Headline: Ability Grouping is Back Despite Scholarly Qualms

By 03/18/2013

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On Top of the News
Ability Grouping is Back Despite Scholarly Qualms
Washington Post| 3/18/13

Behind the Headline
The Detracking Movement: Why Children Are Still Grouped by Ability
Education Next |Fall 2004

In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews writes about a new Brookings report that traces the decline and re-birth of ability grouping in schools. Ability grouping took a huge hit from scholars studying inequity in American schools in the 70s and 80s, Mathews writes, but now, without much notice, it has come back. In “The Detracking Movement: Why Children Are Still Grouped by Ability,” published by Ed Next in 2004, Maureen Hallinan took a long look at the persistence of tracking despite efforts to wipe it out.

In “All Together Now: Educating High and Low Achievers in the Same Classroom,” Mike Petrilli explored why it is so hard to teach kids of different abilities in the same classroom.

In “Can Tracking Improve Learning?” published in Ed Next in Summer 2009, researchers looked at how tracking affected both high- and low-achieving students in Kenya.

-Education Next

Comment on this article
  • Marisol Clark-Ibanez says:

    I wrote about this as well, back in 2005, when I found that ability grouping serves only the high achieving, male, and standard-English speaking kids. I analyzed ethnographic data from an inner-city charter school and “regular” elementary school in the same general area. Here is the cite:

    Clark-Ibáñez, Marisol. 2005. “Making Meaning of Ability Grouping in Two Urban Schools.” International Review of Modern Sociology, 31 (1) Spring: 57-79.

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