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The Issue on Ability Grouping of Students

In 1982 Kulik and Kulik of the University of Michigan reported that ability grouping has little significant effect on academic achievement, attitudes toward the subject matter and the school, and self-esteem (1982, p. 620). However, students in gifted and talented programs and high-ability students performed better in homogeneous programs tailored to their needs. Kulik and Kulik found that students who were grouped for a particular subject tended to have a better attitude toward that subject, but the effects of grouping on self-concept in general were small (1982, p. 620).

In 1983 Winn and Wilson reported that separation of children according to ability has no clear-cut positive or negative effect on the average scholastic achievement of children who have been ability grouped (1983, p. 121). Their summary of previous studies revealed that the gains for high ability groups appear only when the content and teacher methods are enriched, and such gains are offset by losses in the average and low ability groups (Winn & Wilson, 1983, p. 121).

Margaret M. Dawson, who reviewed research on ability grouping for school psychologists summarized her findings as follows: Students of all levels do better when there are high-ability students in the group. Ability grouping for specific subjects may be beneficial, but class assignment according to ability level has no positive effect. Ability grouped classes do not learn positive attitudes toward themselves or their school. Students in the lowest groups narrow their aspirations. Ability grouping has negative implications for educationally handicapped children (Dawson, 1987, p. 350).

Robert Slavin found that earlier research did not distinguish between different types of grouping plans. When such distinctions became clear he noted several trends--cooperative learning can increase student achievement in the elementary grades; research does not support mastery learning; acceleration prog...

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