Equal Education For All American Students

  This paper argues that for most of the 20th century, schools have constructed multiple categories of "unlikeness" or unlike ability, and that these categories were created or soon appropriated to mean "children who cannot learn together." Important evidence collected throughout the century, but most especially in the past twenty years, reveals that school categories favoring children's likeness, rather than their "unlikeness" promise to improve educational fairness and the country's educational quality. Ability grouping has been bolstered by the argument that equal opportunity in a democracy requires schools to provide each student access to the kind of knowledge and skills that best suit his or her abilities and likely adult lives. To make the argument more palatable in a culture that, rhetorically at least, values classless and colorblind policies, educators and policymakers have reified categorical differences among people. So, in contemporary