How Ability Grouping Impacts K-12 Students’ Academic Achievement: Evidence From a Meta-Analysis of 25 Years of Research — Saiying Steenbergen-Hu, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Eric Calvert, Susan Corwith, & Sarah Bright
Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 8:00 – 9:00 am, Lawrence D. McHugh Hall, Room MCHU 202
Ability grouping is an educational practice that involves placing students into different schools, classrooms, or small groups based on their initial achievement levels, skills, readiness, or abilities. Ability grouping takes five common forms: between-school, between-class, within-class, cross-grade subject grouping, and special grouping for gifted or high achieving students. Ability grouping can affect many aspects of a student’s school experience. In this session we will present a new meta-analysis of scientific evidence from the past 25 years of research. Participants will learn about four key findings: First, there was no significant difference in the academic achievement of high ability, average, and low ability students when compared with their respective non-grouped peers. Second, the benefits of between-class grouping appeared to be significantly greater than subject-related within-class ability grouping on students’ academic performance. Third, ability-grouped K-12 students performed significantly better than their non-ability-grouped comparisons in math, though this was not the case in reading. The difference in math between grouped and non-grouped students was significantly greater than that in reading. Lastly, ability grouping appears to be significantly more beneficial for high school students, particularly 10th and 12th graders, than for K-5 students.