Grouping students by achievement

The Education Endowment Foundation in the UK has published an evaluation of two trials of programs, developed by the University College-London (UCL) Institute of Education, investigating approaches to grouping students: Best Practice in Setting and Best Practice in Mixed Attainment Grouping.

The main trial, “Best Practice in Setting,” tested an intervention that aimed to get schools to improve their setting practice (grouping students in classes by their current achievement levels). A total of 127 schools took part in the trial, which ran over the course of two academic years. Teachers were randomly allocated to sets to prevent “lower” sets from being disproportionately assigned less-experienced teachers, while students in Years 7 and 8 (grades 6 and 7 in the U.S.) were assigned to sets based on independent measures of achievement, rather than more subjective judgments such as behavior and peer interactions. There were opportunities throughout the year to re-assign students to different sets based on their current level of achievement.

The evaluation found no evidence that the intervention improves outcomes in math (effect size = -0.01) or English (effect size = -0.08). The process evaluation revealed mixed views from participants, and many interviewees thought that what they were being asked to do represented little change from what they already do.

The researchers noted that because school and teacher buy-in was low and attrition rates for follow-up testing were high, half of the schools in the math trial and more than half of the schools in the English trial stopped the intervention before follow-up, and this makes it difficult to conclude anything certain about the impact of Best Practice in Setting.

Källa: Center for research and reform in education

Best Practice in Grouping Students Intervention A: Best Practice in Setting
Best Practice in Grouping Students Intervention B: Mixed Attainment Grouping