Gamoran, Adam, Nystrand, Martin, Berends, Mark, & LePore, Paul C.
An Organizational Analysis of the Effects of Ability Grouping
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Examines variation in the quality and effects of instructional discourse across ability groups.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
American Educational Research Journal
Vol. 32, No. 4, pp. 687-715
- Study assesses whether instructional differences explain achievement differences across ability groups.
- Study finds minority and lower SES students overrepresented in low tracks.
- Minority students made up 20% of the sample but only 10% of honors classes. In the district in the sample with the highest percentage of minority students, 52% of students were Black or Hispanic but the proportion minority was 26% in honors, 52% in regular, and 65% in remedial.
- Honors class students averaged higher SES than lower class students.
- Findings show that differences in the nature and effects of classroom instruction help explain achievement gaps among ability groups. No significant differences in most aspects of instructional discourse were found between class types.
- Differences in the quality of instructional discourse were smaller than expected on the basis of prior research.
- The type of class students were enrolled in made a small but significant difference in their achievement.
- Coherence and uptake have positive significant effects on achievement, but did not explain the achievement gap because they did not vary significantly among the class types.
- Authentic questions, discussion and offtask behavior differ in effects on achievement across ability groups. The same type of instruction can result in unequal achievement in different types of classes. The differential frequency and effects of these instruction measures contribute achievement gaps.
- Student participation and discussion are higher in honors classes, contributing to the learning gaps between groups.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Ability Groups, Academic Achievement, Catholic Schools, English, Math, Tracking, Vocabulary
Participant observation, Survey
Method of Analysis:
Structural Equation Modeling
Midwest Secondary Schools
Unit of Analysis:
- The data are from a 2 year study of 25 secondary schools in the Midwest. Rural, urban, and suburban; public and Catholic schools. The analysis is restricted to 92 honors, regular, and remedial English classes in 10 junior high and middle schools and 8 high schools, 1987-1988.
- The total sample is 1,564 students.
- Background and achievement data come from student questionnaires and achievement tests administered in the fall and spring. Teachers completed questionnaires in the spring.
- IV: Student SES, race and gender, scores on tests of prior reading/writing skills, and ability (standardized test scores from the district). Instructional variables come from teacher surveys (work completion, offtask, authenticity questions, uptake questions, discussion time, discourse coherence) and number of students.
- DV: Literature achievement---all students were administered a year-end test on 5 readings from their English class.
- Ability groups were categorized as honors, regular, and remedial.