Grouping Students for Reading Instruction

Authored by: Rebecca Barr , Robert Dreeben

Handbook of Reading Research

Print publication date:  March  2016
Online publication date:  April  1996

Print ISBN: 9781138834262
eBook ISBN: 9780203447772
Adobe ISBN: 9781136610745


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Grouping students on the basis of ability for reading instruction is pervasive in American schools. Despite the prevalence of this practice, or possibly because of it, many have taken it for granted. Recently, however, several forces have converged to make us reconsider how we organize students for reading. Important among these is the ideological position that identifies ability grouping as a practice that violates the principle of equal educational opportunity. The recent court decision, Moses v. Washington Parish School Board (1971), objected to ability grouping in theory on the grounds that educational research does not justify its use. Particularly within the field of reading, the movement toward a more unified language arts curriculum and against fragmentation and compartmentalization, has had a bearing on our thinking about ability grouping. Whatever the reason, we are now in a period in which we are reevaluating this longstanding practice.

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