This paper focuses on ability grouping in middle school as an important mechanism enabling students with privileged social backgrounds to increase their likelihood of enrollment in the most selective and prestigious high school programs, thus paving the way to higher academic degrees and more lucrative occupations. Using data from Israeli national standardized tests administered in primary and middle schools and matriculation data from the end of high school, we demonstrate the crucial role played by middle school ability grouping in transforming socioeconomic advantage into educational advantage. We thus contribute to a growing body of research that aims at enhancing our understanding of mechanisms of educational tracking in comprehensive systems that rely on complex and nuanced types of formal and informal within-school curricular differentiation.
This is part of a special issue prepared by the LIFETRACK project. Other articles of this special issue can be found here.