Closing the Achievement Gap by Detracking

The achievement gap is a persistent problem in the US education system. Students from low-income families, students of color, and students with disabilities are consistently underperforming compared to their peers. This gap has led to a call for action in the education community. One proposed solution is to detrack classrooms.

What is detracking?

Detracking, also known as deleveling, is the process of eliminating ability grouping in classrooms. Ability grouping categorizes students by their perceived academic abilities, with “high-ability” students in one classroom and “low-ability” students in another. Detracking, on the other hand, creates heterogeneous classrooms where students of all abilities are taught together.

Benefits of detracking

Detracking has been shown to have several benefits for students. By eliminating tracking, students are no longer restricted by their perceived academic ability. They are given the opportunity to learn in an environment where they can learn from and with their peers. This, in turn, improves their academic performance and nurtures their social and emotional growth.

Studies have shown that detracking classrooms leads to a decrease in the achievement gap between students. Closing the gap is vital for creating an equitable education system that meets the needs of all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or race.

Detracking also benefits teachers. It removes the pressure to differentiate instruction based on perceived academic ability, allowing them to focus on the needs of all students. It also fosters collaboration among teachers, as they work together to teach students with diverse learning needs.

Obstacles to detracking

Detracking is not without its challenges. One significant obstacle is the resistance from parents and educators who believe in ability grouping. These individuals argue that ability grouping provides higher-achieving students with the challenge they need, but detracking is a step towards a less rigorous education.

Another challenge is the belief that detracking is too costly. Critics argue that detracking would require additional resources, such as hiring more teachers to accommodate the increase in classroom diversity.

How to implement detracking

Detracking is best implemented gradually, starting with a pilot program in a single grade or subject area. This allows educators to evaluate its effectiveness and make adjustments before expanding the program. Educators must also receive adequate training to address the varying needs of all students in a detracked classroom.

Detracking requires a shift in mindset from a focus on academic ability to one of inclusion and equity. It is essential to communicate with parents, teachers, and students to explain the benefits of detracking and address concerns.


Detracking holds the potential to address the achievement gap in US schools. While it may be challenging to implement detracking, the benefits are worth the effort. By creating homogeneous classrooms, we can help all students reach their full potential, regardless of their perceived academic ability. It is time to dismantle the tracking system and create an inclusive education system that meets the needs of all students.    

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