Tracking Anyone?

Ever since tracking was deemed anathema, our schools have been suffering. There my be no causal relationship, or, there my be. I have long advocated for tracking to make a come-back. Teachers cannot possibly differentiate instruction to the extent they are now required, since every single student is on the "college track". Of course, not everyone can/should go to college. But, in order to weed out those who would not make it, we have to sound like elitist assholes. Oh well. I beg your forgiveness. So sorry.

Here is a perspective from Professor X. He fails a lot of students who maybe should have thought to do something other than college.

Money Quote (from Prof. X):

For I, who teach these low-level, must-pass, no-multiple-choice-test classes, am the one who ultimately delivers the news to those unfit for college: that they lack the most-basic skills and have no sense of the volume of work required; that they are in some cases barely literate; that they are so bereft of schemata, so dispossessed of contexts in which to place newly acquired knowledge, that every bit of information simply raises more questions. They are not ready for high school, some of them, much less for college.

Update: Some reaction here and here. Sober reactions, but no mention of tracking....


Anonymous said...

Isn't (is?) there a difference between tracking at the middle-school or high-school level, where (as I understand it) it exists at least on some level, and in elementary school? If the level of preparation with which kids enter elementary school depends in large part on the family socioeconomic status, which in turn has some significant correlation to race, and kids are tracked from the get-go, don't you create socioeconomically and racially segregated classrooms? That's not why I'm sending my kid to public school.

Do you also have the problem, suggested by Professor X, with lesser resources for the lower-tracked classes? Will the more experienced teachers chose to teach the higher-tracked classes, leaving those who need more help with the less-experienced teachers?

I agree that not everyone is cut out for college, and it's unfortunate that raises and promotions may be tied to requiring people to do something they may not be prepared or suited for. I also agree that the differentiation required of elementary school teachers that I've seen is unworkable. Of course I'd like to have my kid taught how to multiply fractions by a teacher who did not also have to teach two-digit addition at the same time. But something about elementary-school tracking makes me uneasy. Maybe it's knee-jerk liberalism, maybe it's that I don't want to give up my (pipe) dream of public-school education as an integrating force, the great equalizer, the stepping stone to opportunity and a better future (or is that knee-jerk liberalism?).

I'm just a parent who's relatively new to this whole public-school experience, and I've just started to dip my toes into these questions of educational policy. Other than my own public-school experience some 35-40 years ago, which was rather anomalous, I don't know how tracking worked or why it was given the heave-ho. With the little I know, I'm torn....

Unknown said...

I think I may have conflated tracking in high school with tracing in elementary school. Although, some form of tracking with the little ones would allow for teachers to teach. I assume parents send their kids to school to learn--no, wait. Some send their kids to school to learn, others have no idea why they send them to school!

Segregation by fiat is one thing. Segregation by virtue of ability is another. We have tier systems in the world, both natural and institutional. I am not sure that allowing all abilities in the same classroom, no matter the age, is advisable. I am painfully aware of the non-PCness of my position; PC has gotten us nowhere.

I understand your confusion, for lack of a better word. I think I share it a bit. As a teacher, so many things just become very clear, and bad parenting is the worst part of teaching.

Keep reading the blogs, and posting here. It helps to make clear my positions.

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