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After decade of criticism, student grouping rises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Teachers say they are grouping students of similar abilities with each other and schools are clustering pupils with like interests together.

That’s according to a review of federal education surveys released Monday. The Brookings Institution report shows a dramatic increase in both ability grouping and student tracking among fourth- and eighth-grade students. Those practices were once criticized as racist and faced strong opposition from groups as varied as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to the National Governors Association.

In 1998, for instance, only 28 percent of fourth graders were put into reading groups based on their ability. By 2009, that number rose to 71 percent.

Some advocates say that the teachers might not have really stopped grouping students but are now being more honest in how they teach.

Associated Press

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