High Achievers

What are the implications of "tracking," or grouping students into separate classes based on their achievement? Many schools have moved away from this practice and reduced the number of subject-area courses offered in a given grade. In this new Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, Brookings scholar Tom Loveless examines tracking and detracking in Massachusetts middle schools, with particular focus on changes that have occurred over time and their implications for high-achieving students. Among the report's key findings detracked schools have fewer advanced students in mathematics than tracked schools. The report also finds that detracking is more popular in schools serving disadvantaged populations. Read the full report to find out more.

This publication reports the results of the first two (of five) studies of a multifaceted research investigation of the state of high-achieving students in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era.

Part 1: An Analysis of NAEP Data, authored by Brookings Institution scholar Tom Loveless, examines achievement trends for high-achieving students (defined, like low-achieving students, by their performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) since the early 1990s and, in more detail, since 2000.

Part 2: Results from a National Teacher Survey, authored by Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett of Farkas Duffett Research Group, reports on teachers' own views of how schools are serving high-achieving pupils in the NCLB era.

Related Resources

Slideshow presentation of the findings

Mike discusses the report on Fordham Factor

In A Nutshell brief of the report

Tom Loveless responds to this review of the study.

 Video coverage of our panel event on the report:

High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

5:30 - Tom Loveless, Brookings Institution
19:05 - Steve Farkas, Farkas Duffett Research Group
33:25 - Josh Wyner, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
41:15 - Ross Wiener, Education Trust
48:30 - Question & Answer

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Tracking and ability grouping strategies differ widely from school to school. They diverge even more widely from their portrayal in the popular criticisms of the 1980s. This report digs into the sensitive matter of whether those criticisms are valid today. The answer tells a more complicated and more honest story than we have heard before on this topic.

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