Middle School Ability Grouping and Student Achievement in Science and Mathematics
University of Chicago
Effects of middle school ability grouping on cognitive achievements in mathematics and science.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Vol.14, No. 3, pp. 205-227
- There is a relationship between school SES and math and science.
- About 40% of the schools use ability grouping for 7th grade science and over 80% group math.
- Nongrouped students in science are less likely to be Black or Hispanic; in math, non-groupred students have somewhat lower average SES.
- Results of ability grouping in middle school science generally confirm the differential benefits theory, but mainly in a negative direction. The effects of high group placement are negligible in seventh grade and positive but still not strong at the eight-grade level.
- In math, the differential-effects theory is clearly supported. High group students learn substantially more than nongrouped students and low-group students learn much less.
- Ability grouping thus appears to benefit advanced students, to harm slower students, and to have a negligible overall effect as the benefits and liabilities cancel each other out.
- Grouping has no significant overall benefits in either science or mathematics.
- Ability grouping in 7th and 8th grade mathematics and science is clearly not an optimal arrangement compared with the nongrouped alternative, for low-group students are significant losers.
- Conditions under which grouping benefits all students do not generally exist.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Ability Groups, Academic Achievement, Math, Middle School, SES, Science
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
Propensity Score Matching
Middle School students
Unit of Analysis:
- Data collected by the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) from fall 1987 to fall 1989.
- 4 year panel study of middle and high school science and math education.
- National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
- Questionnaire asking about background and attitudes.
- 1,900 younger cohort students who met certain criteria.
- DV: Composite score summarizing student performance in the different domains tapped by the NAEP -derived LSAY tests (in both science and mathematics).
- IV: Ability grouping, number of ability levels in each subject that the school defined, background variables (SES, gender, race-ethnicity), School-context measures (amount of course work in subject being studied, social composition (average SES) and size of school).
- They use Propensity Score and Two-stage selection-effects models to calculate predicted probablities of group placement.