Setting the Record Straight on Ability Grouping
If committed educators could be easily trained to implement a low-cost intervention that boasted consistent learning gains for all students, headlines would herald the discovery of the educational holy grail.
That low-cost intervention is here and readily available. It’s called ability grouping. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming evidence that the flexible and appropriate use of this intervention benefits learners at all levels, some have opted to smear it as an evil twin of tracking and to lament its resurgence in the nation’s classrooms.
Flexible ability grouping, when used appropriately, works. According to a 2010 meta-analysis by Kelly Puzio and Glenn Colby , students who were grouped by ability within a class for reading were able to make up to an additional “half of a year’s growth in reading.” Similarly, a 2013 National Bureau of Economic Research study of students who were grouped by ability found that the performance of both high and low performing students significantly improved in math and reading, demonstrating the universal utility of this tool, particularly as our classrooms...
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