Flexible ability grouping is not the evil twin of tracking, argues Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, president of the National Association for Gifted Children and a professor of education at Northwestern, in Ed Week.
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.
As classrooms become more academically diverse, grouping students by ability — and regrouping as they improve — helps everyone, she writes. A 2010 meta-analysis found benefits in reading. A 2013 study found significant improvements in math and reading for high- and low-performing students.
Tracking sets students on a defined path, writes Olszewski-Kubilius. It’s often permanent. “Flexible ability grouping is a tool used to match a student’s readiness for learning with the instruction provided, delivering the right content to the right student at the right pace and at the right time.”