I assume you prefer tracking students based on ability in K-12 or at least 6-12/7-12. maybe yes? Have you seen any good evidence for that, or is there better evidence for having lumped classes where assignments/projects are differentiated to ability?
We’re not really up on the tracking literature for non-gifted kids. Our impression is that once you cut off the tails of the distribution, mainstreaming has better outcomes than tracking. There is good evidence that mainstreaming gifted kids has worse outcomes both for the gifted kids and for the middle of the distribution in cooperative learning environments. The literature on mainstreaming for learning disabled kids is mixed, but I suspect that mainstreaming is good for kids who are misdiagnosed (generally because they are poor or minority) and for those with specific learning disabilities, and bad for kids who need more than just pull-out programming for their individual kind of disability. It would be awesome if they could, say, track math classes for kids who have dyscalculia, because math can be taught to kids with dyscalculia, but it has to be taught in a different way than mainstream math is taught. But it’s hard to do that kind of thing except in a major urban center.
As a teacher, it is much easier to teach to a tracked class, but that’s just personal anecdote. There’s a lot more work to go into differentiation, and God bless the teachers who are willing and able to put in that effort. We salute you and wish you smaller class sizes!
Differentiation, when done well, has good outcomes across all ability levels. Ability clustering within a class (allowing clusters to change as abilities change) also has good outcomes for everybody. Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom has an excellent literature review of the differentiation and ability clustering literature for all kids, not just gifted kids.
Do any of our grumpy readers have more knowledge about tracking to share with Leah? Any experiences to share?