Grouping By Learning Level and Pace

New findings based on more than 20 years of research suggest that despite decades of controversy, elementary school teachers now feel fine placing students in "ability groups."


The research, out yesterday from Brookings Institution's Brown Center on American Education, finds that between 1998 and 2009, the percentage of fourth-grade teachers who said they created ability-based reading groups skyrocketed from 28% to 71%. 


In math, between 1996 and 2011, the practice rose from 40% to 61%. 


Bottom line, because of "No Child Left Behind" schools having different kids with different learning levels is keeping the smarting kids from learning because teachers have to focus on struggling students.


The practice of grouping kids together with the same amount of smarts was frowned upon for decades and dubbed a civil-rights issue in the 1990s.


Grouping works within a single class and is typically done just at the elementary school level. 


Tracking is a larger, more institutionalized form of grouping that involves moving students into different classes. It generally takes place in middle school and high school.


The whole goal of grouping the students is to improve math and reading.


The data are based on teacher surveys conducted as part of the federal government's National Assessment of Educational Progress, a reading and math test administered to thousands of students every two years.


For decades beginning in the 1970s, separating students by ability came under intense criticism from some researchers, with many saying it often amounted to separating students by race and class. By the early 1990s, several civil rights and education organizations, including the Children's Defense Fund and the NAACP , condemned the practice.