Ability Grouping, Tracking & Alternatives


Tracking -- a podcast done by a student who was put in the middle track but who wanted to be in the upper track -- her name is Jaimita Haskell, and this is her story of becoming an activist to get into the upper level of instruction and how this changed her life -- listen -- her story reveals some of the serious problems with tracking/ability grouping, and it offers advice for teachers and students -- created as part of WNYC's Radio Rookies program and the YouthCast program both of which help youth create radio segments that present their experiences and perspectives.

Stratification, Disillusionment, and Hopelessness: The Consequences of Tracking and Ability Grouping -- an online essay about some of the negative consequences of tracking and ability grouping.

The Dumb Class -- a 2009 article that raises important questions about how we define and assess intelligence for the purpose of assigning students to different levels of instruction.

Closing the Achievement Gap by Detracking -- an article about how one high school achieved significant effects by detracking.

When Excellence and Equity Thrive -- a 2004 editorial written by the principal of a high school where detracking has led to higher academic achievement for all students.

Perpetuating a Minority Student Mediocrity: An Administrator's Perspective on the Achievement Gap -- a paper written by an African American school administrator about the importance of overcoming both structural and personal/cultural barriers to students of color participating in advanced classes.

What Tracking Is and How to Start Dismantling It -- chapter two of a book about the successful "detracking" of a large pubic high school in Rockville Centre, NY -- includes good ideas about how to proceed in pursuing tracking/ability grouping reform and evidence of the improvements brought about by creating more heterogeneous groups -- the book is: Detracking for Excellence and Equity, by Carol Burris and Delia Garrity.

Should Students Be Tracked in Math or Science? -- a 1999 review of research that concludes that "the continuation of tracking seems unwarranted," because any gains come at the cost of increased barriers to lower-achieving students.

The Effects of Homogeneous Grouping in Mathematics - a 1993 report about how ability grouping in math education creates different educational experiences, paths, and opportunities.

U.S. Office for Civil Rights Official Statement about Ability Grouping -- a 1998 government statement that prohibits discrimination in ability grouping or tracking students.

Position Statement on Ability Grouping -- a 2002 position statement by the National Association of School Psychologists that argues for reform and only limited use of grouping.

Does Educational Tracking Affect Performance and Inequality? Differences-in-Differences Evidence across Countries -- a 2005 international comparative study, done by an economic research institute, that suggests that rigid tracking of students into different classes by their academic ability provides little or no payoff for improving a nation’s overall academic achievement.

Ability Grouping in Elementary Schools: A Best Evidence Synthesis -- Robert Slavin's 1987 review of research about the academic achievement effects of tracking/ability grouping in elementary schools.

Does Ability Grouping Help or Hurt? -- An Interview with Anne Wheelock, author of the book, "Crossing the Tracks: How Untracking Can Save America's Schools".

High Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB -- a 2007 report by Tom Loveless that argues low-achieving students are making larger gains than high achieving students, and teachers are not focusing enough on high achieving students; therefore, he argues, we should continue with ability grouping and "gifted and talented education."

The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner -- a summary of a 1991 study -- includes recommendations generally in favor of separating these students from others for instruction.

The Gifted Express: Now Leaving On Track 1 -- a commentary piece that expresses the view that "the abandonment of ability grouping has been particularly harmful to highly able students."

McDonald's or IBM -- a report on policies in North Carolina that require 8th graders to "choose" one of four career "pathways" before entering high school.

Facing the Consequences: An Examination of Discrimination in U.S. Public Schools -- a national study that, among other things, documents racial inequalities in track placements.

Is Ability Grouping the Way to Go -- Or Should It Go Away? -- a brief overview statement and links to other sites.

Study Finds Social Barriers to Advanced Classes -- this study found that choice-based grouping systems, with supposedly open access to all for the top classes, often don't live up to their intentions to enroll more minority and low-income students in upper level classes.

Grouping Students for Instruction in Middle Schools -- a 1998 review of practices commonly used for grouping students in middle schools -- discusses attitudes toward tracking and prevalent practices, summarizes recent research on ability grouping and tracking, and provides suggestions for further research.

The Challenge of Detracking: Finding the Balance Between Excellence and Equity -- a 1998 article presenting an overview of reasons for detracking and discussion of issues central to reform.

The AVID Program Homepage -- the AVID program places low achieving students in upper track classes, with support for their success, and it works.

Accelerated Schools Project -- an approach to school reform based on the idea of providing students of limited resources with accelerated, rather than remedial, instruction -- accelerated schools use ideas from gifted and talented education to improve the education of students of limited resources -- it works!

Determinants of Student Achievement: New Evidence from San Diego -- this study reports that students whose classmates do well academically tend to score higher themselves ... For instance, in math, elementary school students who moved from a low-achieving grade to a higher-scoring grade improved by 9 percent more than they would have if they had stayed with the lower-performing students, the researchers found."

The Algebra Project: A Case Study -- an innovative math program designed to make algebra available to all seventh and eighth grade students, regardless of their prior level of skill development or academic achievement. The program counters many assumptions about the need to group students for math instruction on the basis of presumed ability, and it works!

The Algebra Project -- the home website for this exceptional math education program, now nationally recognized, that was created by Civil Rights activist and Harvard Ph.D., Bob Moses -- a creative and culturally responsive approach to teaching African American and other youth algebra -- algebra is a major gatekeeping discipline and course that often determines whether youth are placed on the college prep path -- the program works, and the website includes lesson ideas and other useful information.

The Preuss School -- a charter middle and high school dedicated to providing a rigorous college prep education for motivated low-income students who will become the first in their families to graduate from college -- affiliated with the Univ. of California, San Diego.

Can Teachers Reach Every Kid? - an essay about teaching diverse youth within mixed classes.

Successful Detracking in Middle and Senior High Schools -- a 1992 report about detracking efforts.

Alternatives to Ability Grouping: Still Unanswered Questions -- a review of the conditions and strategies that can help make detracking successful.

The Cooperative Learning Center -- the website of a research center run by Roger and David Johnson, two international experts on cooperative learning.

An Overview of Cooperative Learning -- an excellent essay by two of the leading experts in the field.

Jigsaw Classroom -- a great website devoted to explaining a particular cooperative learning teaching strategy and cooperative learning in general -- includes history, information about effectiveness, and specific guidance for implementation.

Unleashing the Brain Power of Groups in the Classroom: The Neuroscience Behind Collaborative Work -- a 2010 article in the Harvard Education Letter about the cognitive, classroom, and instructional benefits of group work.

Putting Cooperative Learning to the Test -- a good article about the value of cooperative learning, from the Harvard Education Newsletter, May/June 2000.

Books and Articles

Ansalone, G. 2004. Achieving Equity and Excellence in Education: Implications for Educational Policy. Review of Business, 25(2): 37.

Baloche, L. 1998. The Cooperative Classroom: Empowering Learning. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Braddock, J. 1990. Alternatives to Tracking. Educational Leadership, 47 (7): 76-79.

Burris, C., & Welner, K. 2005. Closing the Achievement Gap by Detracking. Phi Delta Kappan, 86, 594-598.

Burris, C., Heubert, J. & Levin, H. 2006. Accelerating Mathematics Achievement Using Heterogeneous Grouping. American Educational Research Journal, 43(1): 105-136.

Callahan, R. 2005. Tracking and High School English Learners: Limiting Opportunity to Learn. American Educational Research Journal, 42(2).

Cohen, E. 1994. Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cohen, E. 1997. Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cohen, F. 1994. Prom Pictures: A Principal Looks at Detracking. Educational Leadership, 52(4): 85-87.

Cone, J. 1993. Learning to Teach an Untracked Class. The College Board Review, 169: 20-31.

Cooper, R. 1996. Detracking Reform in an Urban California High School: Improving the Schooling Experiences of African American Students. Journal of Negro Education, 65(2): 190-208.

Davidson, N., and Worsham, T. (Eds.) 1992. Enhancing Thinking through Cooperative Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fine, M. 1991. Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban Public High School. Albany: SUNY.

Finnan, C. & Swanson, J. 2000. Accelerating the Learning of All Students. Westview Press.

Gamoran, A. 1992. A Synthesis of Research: Is Ability Grouping Equitable? Educational Leadership, 50 (2).

Gamoran, A. and Berends, M. 1987. The Effects of Stratification in Secondary Schools: Synthesis of Survey and Ethnographic Research. Review of Educational Research, 57: 415-435.

Gamoran, A., Nystrand, M., Berends, M. and LePore, L. 1995. An Organizational Analysis of the Effects of Ability Grouping. American Educational Research Journal, 32(4): 687-715.

George, P. 1992. How to Untrack Your School. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Guskey, T. 2010.  Lessons of Mastery Learning.  Educational Leadership, 68(2), 52-57.

Hatt, B. 2012.  Smartness as a Cultural Practice in Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 49(3), 438-460.

Holliday, D. 2005. Cooperate and Feel Great: Cooperative Learning Training Manual. University Press of America.

Johnson, D., Johnson, R. & Holubec, E. 2009. Circles of Learning: Cooperation in the Classroom, 6th edition.  Interaction Book Co.

Johnson, D., Johnson, R. & Holubec, E. 2009. Circles of Learning: Cooperation in the Classroom.  Interaction Book Co

Khmelkov, V. & Hallinan, M. 1999. Organizational Effects on Race Relations In Schools. Journal of Social Issues, 55(4).

Kretovics, J., Noblit, G, et al. 1995. All Children Can Learn -- The Unmet Promise: A Study of Ability Grouping and Tracking in North Carolina Schools. Chapel Hill, NC: NC Education and Law Project.

Kulik, J. and Kulik, C. 1982. Effects of Ability Grouping on Secondary School Students: A Meta Analysis of Evaluation Findings. American Educational Research Journal, 19 (3).

Kulik, J. and Kulik, C. 1987. Effects of Ability Grouping on Student Achievement. Equity and Excellence, 23(1-2): 22-29.

Kulik, J. and Kulik, C. 1992. An Analysis of the Research on Ability Grouping: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Storrs, CT: The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

Lockwood, A. T. 1996. Tracking: Conflicts and Resolutions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Lynn, L. & Wheelock, A. 1997. Making Detracking Work. The Harvard Education Letter, 13(1).

Lucas, S. R. 1999. Tracking Inequality: Stratification and Mobility in American High Schools. Teachers College Press.

Mallery, J. & Mallery, J.. 1999. The American Legacy of Ability Grouping: Tracking Reconsidered. Multicultural Education, 7(1): 13-15.

Marsh, R. & Raywid, M. 1994. How to Make Detracking Work. Phi Delta Kappan, 76(4): 314-318.

Mehan, H. et al. 1996. Constructing School Success: The Consequences of Untracking Low-Achieving Students. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mehan, H. 1997. Tracking Untracking: The Consequences of Placing Low-Track Students in High Track Classes. In P. Hall (Ed.) Race, Ethnicity, and Multiculturalism: Policy and Practice. New York: Garland.

Mevarech, Z. & Kramaski, B. 1997. IMPROVE: A Multidimensional Method for Teaching Mathematics in Heterogeneous Classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 34(2): 365-394.

Oakes, J. 1985. Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Oakes, J. 1986. Keeping Track, Part 1: The Policy of Curriculum Inequality. Phi Delta Kappan, September.

Oakes, J. 1988. Tracking in Mathematics and Science Education: A Structural Contribution to Unequal Schooling. In L. Weis (Ed.) Class, Race and Gender in Education. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Oakes, J. 1995. Two Cities' Tracking and Within-School Segregation. Teachers College Record, 96: 681-90.

Oakes, J., Gamoran, A. and Page, R. 1992. Curriculum Differentiation: Opportunities, Outcomes, and Meanings. In P. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Curriculum. New York: Macmillan.

Oakes, J. & Guiton, G. 1995. Matchmaking: The Dynamics of High School Tracking Decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 32 (1): 3-33.

Oakes, J. & Lipton, M. 1992. Detracking Schools: Early Lessons from the Field. Phi Delta Kappan, Feb.

Oakes, J. & Lipton, M. 1996. Developing Alternatives to Tracking and Grading. In L. Rendon and R. Hope (Eds.) Educating a New Majority. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Oakes, J. & Saunders, M. (Eds.). 2008.  Beyond Tracking: Multiple Pathways to College, Career, and Civic Participation. Harvard Education Press.

Oakes, J. & Wells, A. 1998. Detracking for High Student Achievement. Educational Leadership, March.

Oakes, J., Wells, A., Jones, M. and Datnow, A. 1997. Detracking: The Social Construction of Ability, Cultural Politics, and Resistance to Reform. Teachers College Record, 98(3): 482-511.

Page, R. 1991. Lower Track Classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press.

Pederson, J. and Digby, A. (eds.) 1995. Secondary Schools and Cooperative Learning: Theories, Models and Strategies. New York: Garland Publishing.

Pool, H. & Page, J. (Eds.) 1995. Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.

Putnam, J. 1994. Cooperative Learning and Strategies for Inclusion. New York: Paul Brookes Publishing.

Putnam, J. 1997. Cooperative Learning in Diverse Classrooms. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Rist, R. 1970. Student Social Class and Teacher Expectations: The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Ghetto Education. Harvard Educational Review, 40: 411-451.

Rist, R. 1973. The Urban School: A Factory for Failure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Rose, H. & Betts, J. 2004. The Effect of High School Courses on Earnings. Review of Economics and Statistics, 86, 497-513.

Rubin, B. & Noguera, P. 2004. Tracking Detracking: Sorting Through the Dilemmas and Possibilities of Detracking in Practice. Equity and Excellence in Education, 37.

Russell, M. 2005. Untapped Talent and Unlimited Potential: African American Students and the Science Pipeline. Negro Educational Review, 56(2/3).

Scwall, E. 2005. "Is this Just Regular English?" An English Teacher Examines How Tracking Affects Her Students. Rethinking Schools, 19(3).

Segro, G. 1995. Meeting the Needs of All Students: Making Ability Grouping Work. NASSP Bulletin, 79(568), 18-26.

Slavin, R. 1987. Ability Grouping and Its Alternatives: Must We Track? American Educator, Summer.

Slavin, R. 1987. Ability Grouping and Student Achievement in Elementary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 57: 293-336.

Slavin, R. 1988. Synthesis of Research on Grouping in Elementary and Secondary Schools. Educational Leadership, September.

Slavin, R. 1990. Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, (Fall): 471-499.

Sharan, S. (Ed.) 1994. Handbook of Cooperative Learning. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Slavin, R. 1990. Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, and Practice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Steinberg, A. and Wheelock, A. 1993. After Tracking What? Middle Schools Find New Answers. In A. Steinberg (Ed.), Adolescents and Schools: Improving the Fit. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Letter.

Stevens, R. and Slavin, R. 1995. The Cooperative Elementary School: Effects on Students' Achievement, Attitudes, and Social Relations. American Educational Research Journal, 32(2): 321-351.

Tomlinson, C. 1995. How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tomlinson, C. 1999. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Tyson, K. 2011.  Integration Interrupted: Tracking, Black Students and Acting White after Brown.  Oxford Univ. Press.

VanderHart, P. 2006. Why Do Some Schools Group by Ability? Some Evidence from the NAEP. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 65(2).

Vermette, P. 1998. Making Cooperative Learning Work. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Watanabe, M. (Ed.)  2011.  "Heterogenius" Classrooms -- Detracking Math and Science - A Look at Groupwork in Action.  Teachers College Press.

Wells, A. & Serna, I. 1996. The Politics of Culture: Understanding Local Political Resistance to Detracking. Harvard Education Review, 66(1).

Welner, K. and Oakes, J. 1996. (Li)Ability Grouping: The New Susceptibility of School Tracking Systems to Legal Challenges. Harvard Educational Review, 66(3): 451-470.

Wheelock, A. 1992. Crossing the Tracks: How "Untracking" Can Save America's Schools. NY: New Press.

Wheelock, A. 1992. Untracking for Equity: The Case for Untracking. Educational Leadership, 50(2).

Yonezawa, S. 2000. Unpacking the Black Box of Tracking Decisions: Critical Tales of Families Navigating the Course Placement Process. In W. Jordan & M. Sanders (Eds.), Schooling Students Placed at Risk: Research, Policy, and Practice in the Education of Poor and Minority Students. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Yonezawa, S. & Jones, M. 2005. Students' Perspectives on Tracking and Detracking. Theory Into Practice, 45(1): 15-23.

Yonezawa, S., Wells, A. & Serna, I, 2002. Choosing Tracks: "Freedom of Choice" in Detracking Schools. American Educational Research Journal, 39(1): 37-67.


Off Track: Classroom Privilege for All, Michelle Fine, et al., 1998 -- tells the story of a non-tracked class in world literature

Cooperative Learning in the Music Classroom, Music Educators National Conference. 1992 -- focuses on music experiences, but useful for teachers of any subject.

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