For several decades, researchers have documented the effects of tracking students into segregated classrooms according to perceived ability or achievement. Whether known as tracking, sorting, streaming, or ability grouping, an expansive body of literature conclusively shows tracking has been harmful, inequitable, and an unsupportable practice. Initially touted as a way of tailoring instruction to the diverse needs of students, tracking has instead become a way to stratify opportunities to learn, limiting the more beneficial opportunities to high-track students and thereby denying these benefits to lower-tracked students. This generally plays out in a discriminatory way, segregating students by race and socio-economic status.2 In his 2012 meta-analysis of the vast body of tracking research, John Hattie incorporated 500 studies. Also incorporating the findings of 14 earlier meta-analyses, he found that tracking has “minimal effects on learning outcomes and profound negative equity effects.”
The Department of Education has branded “tracking”—designating students for separate educational paths based on their academic performance—as a modern day form of segregation.