Tracking middle school students for instruction: a study of homogeneous and heterogeneous grouping
This study examined the effects of tracking on the academic achievement and attitudes of 56 seventh grade students. The study took place in a public middle school of 600 students located in a middle class neighborhood of a large suburban California school district. The socioeconomic makeup of the school was predominantly middle-class, with White students comprising about 75% of the enrollment. The 56 students were divided into two homogeneously grouped classes for instruction during the first quarter, then regrouped into two heterogeneous classes for instruction during the second quarter. Both classes were taught the same curriculum and received all instruction from the same two classroom teachers. Academic achievement of the two groups were compared using the students' grade point averages and their mean scores on teacher-created math tests. Student attitudes regarding the classroom learning environments were compared using written reflections collected from the students after each quarter of instruction. T-tests for statistical comparisons of the students' GPAs and math test scores showed no significant differences. Thus, the results of the study showed negligible changes in academic achievement when tracking students for instruction. However, a chi-square analysis of the written reflections showed a significant difference in the students' positive attitudes towards their classes, which favored the heterogeneous groups. The teacher observed that the students, overall, exhibited better cooperation and behavior when grouped heterogeneously. Recommendations for further studies call for research which examines the effects of two treatments on heterogeneously grouped students. First, improved training for teaching classrooms with all types of learners. Second, the provision of high-quality teaching materials and programs of enrichment for classroom use. Finally, there is a general recommendation for increased administrative support for heterogeneous grouping in our schools.