Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mixed Ability and/or Streaming

Between-class achievement grouping for literacy and
numeracy: academic outcomes for primary students

AARE 2008 Conference in Brisbane QLD
Suzanne Macqueen, University of Newcastle, Australia

Achievement grouping has been practised in a number of forms and contexts for over a century, and has been the subject of copious amounts of research. Despite a general consensus in the research that between-class achievement grouping provides no overall benefit for students, the practice has persisted in various guises. Recent research in this field involving primary school students and teachers has investigated the affective outcomes of such practices, but academic outcomes at the primary level have not been studied in recent decades. This paper examines the academic outcomes of between-class achievement grouping in primary literacy and numeracy classes. The conclusion reached is that the current regrouping practice provides no academic advantage for students.

What lessons can schools learn from streaming by ability?

Tim Harford , 3rd January, 2009.
Published on Undercover Economist.
I have written before about “peer effects” in education, which are the influences, positive and negative, that classmates and school friends have on each other. They are hard to identify with much certainty. Bright children might make friends with each other without actually improving each other’s test scores. Or pushy middle-class parents might all flock to the same popular school. Or a class of smart kids might attract a good teacher. All these situations would produce clusters of high and low achievement, yet no true peer effects need be at play.

School streaming 'hurts' less-academic students'
New Zealand Herald, Tuesday May 20, 2008
By Vaimoana Tapaleao
Children at the lower end of a streaming system at school do worse, but it has no affect on brighter students, a British study has found. Less-able children achieve poorly when they are placed with children of the same ability but achieve better if they study with the rest of the class. More-capable students perform well regardless of whether they are in an exclusive class of high achievers or taught in a mixed-ability class, according to the latest reports of the Primary Review - led by Cambridge University.

Streaming and setting do not affect results.
Times Educational Supplement, 5/16/2008, Issue 4788
The article discusses research by the Primary Review, located at Cambridge University, and its investigation into how streaming and setting impact the educational outcomes of primary school children. It is noted that in Great Britain ability grouping in education has been politicized in that Conservatives preferred setting. The report did find that grouping in this way did impact the children socially and that the basis of the groupings was sometimes "arbitrary."

Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the
Cambridge Primary Review, 608 pp, Routledge, October 2009. ISBN 978-0-415-54871-7 (pb), 978-0- 415-54870-0 (hb).
This 608-page report draws on over 4,000 published sources as well as the Review’s extensive evidence from written submissions, face-to- face soundings and searches of official data. Part 1 sets the scene and tracks primary education policy since the 1960s. Part 2 examines children’s development and learning, their lives outside school and their needs, aspirations and prospects in a changing world. Part 3 explores what goes on in primary schools, from the formative early years to aims, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, standards and school organisation. Part 4 deals with the system as a whole: ages and stages; schools and other agencies; teacher training, leadership and workforce reform; governance, funding and policy. Part 5 draws everything together with 78 formal conclusions and 75 recommendations for future policy and practice. A report of this length and complexity is not readily compressed into a four-page briefing: here, by way of taster rather than summary, are some key points from the report’s concluding chapter.


Independent schools Queensland, 2007
Is there any benefit to grouping students depending on ability? If so, what type of grouping provides conditions for optimal performance?

The research on grouping students by ability is a difficult area because student performance is affected by many variables, including class size, ability range, teaching methods, resources, the degree of differentiation, the attitudes of the teacher and the curriculum content. However, there is some agreement worthy of note with regard to how to best group students.

Primary pupils' experiences of different types of grouping in school
The benefits and disadvantages of grouping by ability
, 2004
The practice of grouping by ability in school was popular after the Second World War. It subsequently fell into disfavour, according to the authors, for a combination of reasons. These included:
• evidence of low self-esteem and social alienation of lower stream pupils;
• inconclusive evidence for positive effects on attainment;
• a shift of educational focus towards equality of educational opportunity.
Over the last decade ability grouping in at least one subject has again become common in primary schools because it is perceived as a means of raising standards.

Grouping pupils and students – what difference does the type of grouping make to teaching and learning in schools?, 2004
Selection and ability grouping are issues that can cause heated debate amongst teachers, leaders and parents, as they can hold very different opinions about which of the alternative approaches to grouping they prefer. Those who favour streaming and setting make claims for its effectiveness in terms of pupil or student achievement; those against point to the 'unfairness' of the system and its potentially negative effects on pupils' and students' self esteem. This month, we look at a detailed study of ability grouping to help practitioners consider the various effects different grouping practices have upon learners.

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