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A trial court's ruling in Hobson v. Hansen (1967) raised legal questions about ability grouping but failed to stop the practice in its tracks. Civil rights activist Julius Hobson filed a class action lawsuit in federal trial court against the Board of Education of the District of Columbia and its superintendent, Carl Hansen. The suit alleged that low-income and Black students were denied equal educational opportunity as a result of the district's discriminatory practices. Included among the challenged practices was the institution of a rigid system that assigned students to three or four homogeneous ability groups, or tracks.

Once assigned, students had virtually no opportunity to switch tracks. Students in the lowest tracks received a substantially different and lesser education geared toward attaining lower-paying, blue-collar jobs, ...

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