Tracking and ability grouping: Their effects on students in a suburban New York public school district

Jayson Scott Stoller, Fordham University


Ability grouping is one of the oldest and most controversial issues in educational practice today. A half century of research has been completed stating that ability grouping is of little value in enhancing student achievement (Kulik & Kulik, 1982). Recent data lacking, but over time most teachers at all levels have reported both using and believing in some kind of ability grouping (Oakes, 1985). Yet in recent years many school districts have begun to re-examine ability grouping, often out of concern that students low in socioeconomic status, in particular minority students, are discriminated against by being disproportionately placed in low tracks.^ The purpose of this study was to determine if tracking hurts or benefits the student. The following questions about tracking and ability grouping were addressed: (1) Why does tracking exist? (2) Do political and social pressures exist to eliminate or maintain the reasons for tracking? (3) Does tracking influence learning? (4) Is tracking fair and equitable? (5) Does tracking limit a student's access to knowledge? (6) Is tracking related to socioeconomic and racial categories? (7) Are there psychological, social, and academic pressures put on students because of the existence of tracking?^ Most schools have good intentions, including those of advocates of excellence and equity. Tracking, because it is usually taken to be a neutral practice and part of the mechanics of schooling, has escaped the attention of those who mean well. But by failing to scrutinize the effects of tracking, schools unwittingly subvert their well meant efforts to promote academic excellence and to provide conditions that will enable all students to achieve. ^

Subject Area

Educational administration|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Stoller, Jayson Scott, "Tracking and ability grouping: Their effects on students in a suburban New York public school district" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412149.