In this issue, Betts and Shkolnik [Betts, J.R., & Shkolnik, J.L. (1999) The Effects of Ability Grouping on Student Math Achievement and Resource Allocation in Secondary Schools, Economics of Education Review, vol. 19, issue 1, p. 1-15] argue that studies that compare students in tracked versus untracked classes overestimate the impact of tracking on student achievement by not adequately controlling for student ability and motivation. In this paper, the authors discuss the shortcomings of their analysis and reinterpret their results. The data used by Betts and Shkolnik do not allow one to accurately classify tracked and untracked classroom, since identification of heterogeneous classes is impossible. They compare ability-grouped students in schools that report formally engaging in tracking to ability-grouped students in schools that track only informally. Our interpretation of their results suggests that there is little difference in student performance and resource allocation between schools that formally and informally group students by ability.
Originally published in: Economics of Education Review, v. 19, no. 1, 1999, pp. 17-20.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.