Effects of Different Types of Educational Tracking on Achievement and Achievement Variance

Erika Anne Leicht


Despite their stated intention of providing equal educational opportunity for all, many democratic countries separate their students into different classes or even different schools based on their demonstrated academic ability and likely future career. This practice is often referred to as “tracking or “ability grouping.” This study aims to determine whether different types of educational tracking have different effects on students’ academic achievement. Specifically, this study investigates whether disparities in educational achievement between students of highly educated versus minimally educated parents are greater in countries that practice more explicit and complete forms of tracking. It also explores tracking’s effects on average achievement and overall achievement variance. Analysis of data from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) indicates that tracking generally does increase score disparities between children from different educational backgrounds. Tracking is also associated with higher overall variance of scores. At the same time, tracking may have a slight positive effect on average achievement. However, results are not consistent across all countries, and patterns are different in different subject areas and for different types of tracking. The results of this study neither condemn nor extol tracking. Rather, they indicate that tracking plays a relatively minor role in determining the quality and equity of an education system.


tracking, ability grouping, student achievement, comparative education

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v9i0.3795

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