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    tracking by ability
    By Carolyn

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    Ability grouping was popular when I was obtaining my teaching certificate in the mid-1980's. The teachers taught ability-level reading groups by name. We also had ability groups for math.

    The 1990's came about. Things changed, and I was glad for the change, for a lot of reasons. In the early 1990's, we began to see the ability grouping (tracking) system we used before disappear in favor of large-class instruction. We no longer used differentiated reading groups or math groups. Everybody was taught in the same group and there was no more of that juggling with groups and trying to keep some children busy and quiet while you met with another group.

    Today, it seems as if we have swung back to using groups again. I can see some advantages and disadvantages to using groups. One advantage, of course, is meeting individual needs of children. One disadvantage of it is time management. It must be difficult for a teacher to make effective plans and implement those plans efficiently for various learners.

    My personal experience with ability grouping is that it really hurts the low-level learner when he is in the bottom group. As a previous poster pointed out, it seems as if the children who are in the bottom group are those with the not only the lowest ability, but the lowest self-esteem and worst behavior. These poor children don't have any good role models to guide their behavior and academic knowledge within their class.

    I haven't read any studies on the matter, but my feeling is that the kids who might benefit most from ability grouping are the high-level or gifted learners who are a cut above the rest. They are probably very bored by repetitive lessons that we must keep feeding to the average and below-average learners.

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