Rozzo J.T. (2015). Grouping practices in award-winning middle schools: A study of Pennsylvania Don Eichhorn Schools to Watch middle schools. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved from http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/24984/
Abstract: Grouping practices in schools continue to be an ongoing debate in the research literature. It remains unclear what the most appropriate grouping practices are for middle schools when grouping students to form interdisciplinary teams. The research base on grouping practices for middle level education is limited in terms of recent evidence. The onset of the middle school movement that began nearly half a century ago offered guidance and direction for appropriate grouping practices for middle schools. However, the landscape of public education has changed significantly over the past five decades. This study surveyed 14 middle school principals of award-winning middle schools (Don Eichhorn Schools to Watch) in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This investigation sought to determine 1) What are the most prevalent criteria used by principals of award-winning middle schools when grouping students to form interdisciplinary teams? 2) What are the beliefs of principals of award-winning middle schools relative to ability grouping practices? 3) How aligned are the philosophy and practices of principals of award-winning middle schools in relation to ability grouping? A survey with 44 questions was administered via a telephone call with each participant. Findings revealed that random assignment and ability grouping were the most prevalent criteria used by middle school principals. However, teacher recommendation and students’ prior academic record received the highest mean rank when principals were asked to rank in order the six criteria investigated in this study in terms of importance. Principals’ beliefs for ability grouping were relatively consistent with the practices within their respective schools. The subject area of mathematics received the most support for grouping by ability followed by English language arts. The subject areas of science and social studies received almost unanimous endorsement for randomly assigning students. Coincidentally, the subject areas of math and English language arts are state tested subject areas in consecutive years in middle school. Further research would help to determine if differing beliefs across subject areas are the result of high-stakes testing and increased emphasis on student performance data. Moreover, future research would help to identify the influence such measures have on grouping students to form interdisciplinary teams.