Does how Students are Assigned to Classrooms Matter? An Examination of Relative Achievement in Tracked and Untracked Middle Grades Language Arts Classrooms Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Fierro, Christine
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Even with the controversial history of tracking students by ability and its possible differential, socially reproductive effects on student outcomes, tracking remains a common practice in public secondary schools. The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the relationship between students' performance on state standardized tests and the type of classroom assignment practice employed. Specifically, students were tracked by ability for English Language Arts (ELA) two consecutive years. Their average performance was compared to the next year's result when, at the same school, the same students were instructed in mixed ability ELA classrooms. With persistent achievement and resource gaps, continued pressures of high stakes testing, and the recent advent of including student performance data in educator evaluations, it was both timely and relevant to re-examine student to classroom assignment practices and their relationship with student achievement. Taking advantage of a unique site in which most students experienced both "treatments" of tracked and mixed ELA instruction, changes in student performance were more attributable to time-varying factors, such as the type of classroom assignment, as opposed to time-invariant characteristics, like race, gender, or ability. Multilevel modeling accounted for the nesting of students within classrooms, while other factors such as teacher sequence, race, sex, and initial ability were also included in the model. Overall, non-advanced students who were mixed by ability with advanced students had the most significant achievement gains. Other groups also had gains, though not to a statistically significant level. This finding, with replication, offers promise for the narrowing of the achievement gap between advanced and non-advanced students. As this gap mirrors racial and socioeconomic lines, also seen in this study, mixed ability classrooms may lead to more equitable outcomes, thereby also affecting future life conditions. Educational leaders must be cognizant of how and why student to classroom decisions are being made, paying attention to both results and antecedents. Similarly, as teachers play a critical role in student achievement progress, also supported by this study, leaders must develop and support teachers so they can best meet the varying needs of students.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • English, Fenwick
  • Veitch, James
  • Cohen-Vogel, Lora
  • Doctor of Education
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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