General Question

craziprincess's avatar

Are you in favor the tracking system in schools?

Asked by craziprincess (130points) April 26th, 2009

The tracking system has been criticized for favoring students with higher abilities as well of students of a higher socio-economic status. Proponents of detracked schools suggest that the elimination of the tracking system will integrate students with respect to ability, race and socio-economic status.

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11 Answers

hug_of_war's avatar

What is the tracking system?

Jayne's avatar

Frankly, there’s a reason that some kids are in higher level classes to start with- where academics are concerned, they are undeniable better. For instance, several teams drawn from my AP physics class have won state- and nation- wide awards; I myself am one of 150 semi-finalists in the national Physics Olympiad. The regular physics class just learned what current is a few weeks ago, and struggled a bit with the concept. If those two classes were put together, either we would be hopelessly bored and would never achieve anything close to what we have, or they would be left totally behind.

Now, it is true that with the tracking system, under-achieving students remain in lower-level classes, where they often do not receive the attention and encouragement they need to be able to move up. Eliminating the system would mix them with stronger students and provide them with a more challenging and motivating environment. It would also broaden the horizons of all levels of students, who under the current system are often cloistered off into fairly homogeneous academic environments, which also tend towards uniformity in race and socio-economic status.

However, merging levels would totally cripple the potential of students who are naturally good or have been given an environmental advantage. The hope, probably somewhat more romantic than realistic, that the presence of successful students will inspire others to succeed is outweighed by the very real fact that students who learn at vastly different rates cannot follow the same lesson plan without one extreme losing out. A program under which students tutor each other might be an effective leveling tool, and it may even be possible to have this implemented with entire classes on a regular schedule. But to try to teach all levels on the same level is totally unrealistic. To get at the root of socio-economic and racial discrimination requires a fundamental change in society’s view of race and in the economic structure of the country- to try to address it first, or worse, entirely in the classroom would be futile and harmful.

eambos's avatar

@Jayne That answer is perfect. I have nothing more to add.

sdeutsch's avatar

In many cases, eliminating the tracking system can actually hurt the lower-level students far more than it helps them. When I was in elementary school, my school did track the classes, and the whole school – including the lowest-level classes – had some of the best test scores in our district. By the time my sister got to the same school six years later, they had stopped tracking, and everyone’s test scores dropped dramatically. What @Jayne describes is absolutely true – students benefit the most from having a curriculum tailored specifically to their needs, and if you put all levels in the same classroom, there’s no good way to make that happen.

I also don’t believe that it’s necessary to eliminate tracking in order to diversify the classes and have different groups exposed to each other. Yes, tracking tends to separate those groups out to some degree, but it’s only necessary in some of the academic classes. My school tracked our reading and math classes, where the differences in ability really affected the curriculum, but our “homeroom” group, who we had non-academics with (music, art, gym, etc.) gave us the chance to be part of a very diverse group, in a setting where it didn’t matter what our academic abilities were.

I’m a firm believer that tracking is the best way to give ALL of the students the education they need – it just takes a little more work on the part of the school, to make sure they also create situations that don’t separate the students into racial and economic groups. The diversity in all of the schools I went to was one of the main reasons I loved going to public school – and I managed to get that experience, even though there was a tracking system all the way through my schooling.

craziprincess's avatar

Tracking is the practice, in education, of placing students into different groups within a school, based on academic abilities. The higher the ability group, the more difficult and advanced the coursework.

cwilbur's avatar

The only untracked class I had in high school was Health, and it bored me to tears.

The theory is that if you just throw all the students in together, the brighter ones will learn faster and will help the less bright ones.

The practice is that the brighter ones tune out and do barely enough work to pass. Is that what we really want to encourage?

craziprincess's avatar

My sister-in-law has been an educator for 15 years. She emailed me this response to include since she doesn’t have a fluther account.

She says:

In my humble opinion and after inspecting 12% of the schools in Dubai, if tracking is done according to the British method, it would allow students to progress based on abilities while allowing differentiation in each classroom. This allows the teacher to meet the need of different students without holding back the more able ones and equally importantly without neglecting the ones who don’t get it the first time around.
Students are not one size fit all.
Tracking in the U.S. is done differently. Lumping low performers together does not help them, it demoralizes them and does not push them to “raise the bar.” A lot of students come in the classroom having failed the course the first time around and being in the same class almost makes failure contagious. This was my experience with tracking in Florida. And yes, in general, it does favor white, rich students. It takes a great teacher to teach in the mixed abilities classroom and optimize the learning process for individual students, moving it to independent learning.
We still have a lot to learn about education and which process works best.

Jayne's avatar

@craziprincess; could you ask her to elaborate a bit on the British system? I’m not sure I understand what it is.

craziprincess's avatar

@jayne: She explained to me that in the British system, students are put on individualized tracks. So each student has a personalized educational plan.
Now it just might be that it appears to be better because usually things look more appealing from a distance and are a completely different story when actually practiced.

Jayne's avatar

That seems like a nightmare from a teaching perspective, but it would be ideal if it can be well-implemented. However, it does not lend itself to standardized appraisal, and so it would probably not work in America, where a primary function of education up through high school is to rank students for admittance into institutes of higher learning or into the workforce, and where popular and government culture demands objective accountability for schools and teachers

BBQsomeCows's avatar

Let’s stop rewarding performance and see how that goes

“Why should I bother working hard if that halfwat will get the same grade?”

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