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…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Resources For Learning About Ability Grouping & Tracking — Help Me Find More


I’ll be doing a column on ability grouping & tracking over at my Education Week Teacher blog (the two part series has been posted), and thought I’d start compiling some useful materials here to share.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Differentiating Instruction.

This is just a beginning list, and I hope that readers will contribute more in the comments, as well as contribute stories of your direct experiences:

What Are Your Thoughts, & What Has Been Your Experience, With Ability Grouping/Tracking? is a post I published yesterday, which contains a link to a recent USA Today article, additional research, and my own thoughts on the topic. Several important comments have also been left there.

Is Tracking and Ability Grouping Making a Comeback? is from The Brookings Institution and Tom Loveless.

Do schools for ‘the gifted’ promote segregation? is from The Washington Post.

Rachel Williams contributed some interesting research from Australia.

More Teachers Group Students by Ability is from Education Week.

Review Of Does Sorting Students Improve Scores? An Analysis of Class Composition is from The National Education Policy Center.

Ability Grouping, Tracking, and How Schools Work is by Tom Loveless.

Could This Be Everything You Wanted to Know About Tracking But Were Afraid to Ask? is an older, but very useful, post from Education Week (thanks to Jonathan R. Werner for the tip).

Think Twice Disputes NBER’s Ability Grouping Conclusions is from Education News.

Research Overwhelmingly Counsels an End to Tracking is from the National Education Policy Center.

Michelle Newsum: Tracking Our Way to Wider Achievement Gaps is from Education Week.

The Bottom Line On Student Tracking is from The Washington Post.

Grouping by Ability in Classrooms Is Back in Fashion. Is This Good For Kids? is by Dana Goldstein at Slate.

The Big Sort: How Chicago’s school choice system is tracking kids into separate high schools based on achievement is from Chicago Public Media.

Quote Of The Day: “Differentiation Does, in Fact, Work”

What Are The School Implications Of New Chetty Study On Geographical Mobility?

The image from this next tweet comes from the article, Why Ability Grouping Doesn’t Work, by Peter DeWitt:

Why Do We Label Our Students? is by Peter DeWitt.

Ability grouping of students doesn’t work is from Psych Brief.

Starting to think about tracking is from Teaching With Problems. It’s not a new study. However, it’s a good summary of the existing research.

As mentioned earlier, I expect this list to expand, and I hope quickly. Please share your suggestions….

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Interesting research on ability grouping from Australia.

  2. Larry,

    “Tracking” is a loaded word. While there are legit arguments for and against ability grouping, only the most cold-hearted would approve of any policy endorsing tracking.

    Should such a person exist, no person of substance would take him/her seriously.

  3. Having outed myself as an opponent to tracking / ability grouping, I found Ithaca College’s WISE (Working to Improve Schools and Education) materials very helpful:

    I also thought Stu Silberman’s EdWeed article was compelling:

  4. Our school has just made the decision to go with the GATE cluster model in all English 9 classes next year thus eliminating homogenously grouped classes. Many “old-school” veteran teachers in the department are quite upset with the change. On a side note we will be implementing brainology and the growth mindset with our 9th grade English classes along with implementing common core. I truly believe that these three things all fit together perfectly and will be AMAZING for ALL of our students! Note that I teach in community that is considered a low socioeconomic area with 97% of our students being minorities.

  5. Larry, my concern has always been tracking done with younger students. I have seen how the misuse / abuse of tracking of younger students (K – 4) has become self-fulfilling prophecies for many students. It breaks my heart, especially since younger students are developmentally just starting out (this argument could hold for older students too as mentioned in the Education Week article, i.e we are not all ready to master certain skills at the same time). What is research saying about the use of ability grouping for younger students specifically?

    I can see how using the strategies suggested in the Ed Week article can work well for all levels … if the teacher really cares about the students …

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