Tracking The pounding of my heart echoes in my ears as I glance around the classroom. Adrenaline and fear mix in my veins as I look at them. These are my competitors; just like those that I face on the basketball court or on the track. I have to beat them all. John stole my highest grade, Suzie beat me on the research paper, and Casey aced the math test.

Not today though, today is my day. No one will be able to beat me and I will show them who is truly king of the hill. I life my pencil and begin the test.. The competition many students feel academically is hard and furious. Some students do not have the desire to compete and wish to merely go with the flow at school. For example, I once drifted through everything.

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I switched from drifting and now seek the hardest classes I can; to the puzzlement of my parents. However, if my school would have been tracked, this would not have been possible. Tracking siphons students into predetermined roles and never allows for change. The effects of tracking in school creates insurmountable boundaries for minority and disadvantaged students. The oppression of tracking never relents and traps all those forced to be lower tracks into a life of menial labor with no hope for tomorrow. Tracking destroys both ability and dreams for those that are less fortunate.

As D. McVicar shows “Researchers from UCLA to John Hopkins University were finding that grouping together students of different abilities helped the least capable students dramatically, while the brightest children fared just as well when tracked.” Therefore, it appears tracking does not impair higher students learning ability and shows marked improvements for those that are “slower” or”problematic” Educators seem to have forgotten that the student, perform better in an environment that continually challenges and seeks to expands their minds. Without the presence of challenge or pressure to motivate students, those unfortunate ones that we tracked into lower expectations are bereft and are trapped like a fly in molasses without being able to pull themselves out. The ability of a student cannot truly be measured by an educator and should not be by arbitrary tracking standards. The school system should allow students to track themselves by taking honor or AP courses.

If student choose not to take them, so be it, but denying the chance of students to ever at least attempt challenging coursework is even more foolish because of socio-economic reasons. In America, we often have to make snap judgments without enough support of our theories. In the school system that is especially true; teacher often gravitate towards appearance in deciding students likes and dislikes. As also noted to us by D. McViar, “That the low tracks were almost entirely populated by children of poverty and members of minority groups underscored, in researchers eyes, the inequity of tracking.” It certainly brings into a new light the anti-discrimination posters found in our school. Of course, the usual argument are that we are merely placing them at their proper ability level for them or since their parents cannot afford college we are doing them a favor in the long run. An easy salve to the collective conscience certainly and a justification for any mind since the tracking is being done for their benefit.

But as Patrick Bassett of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States writes, “Low tracks often emphasize good behavior and menial skills, while high tracks offer preparation for college. These differences in learning environments particularly depress the academic achievement of poor and minority students, who are assigned disproportionately to low tracks.” An education equal to the best of a students ability has often been the stated goal of many a high school. But when such factors as race or poverty automatically put a strike against a group, the policy must be changed. By our complicit and nonchalant attitude, we have permitted classism and a sense of elitism for students. This is a detriment for both lower and upper tracked students for as North Kingstown Supt.

James Halley writes, “When they go out into the world, they need to interact with and hear the voices of those not as intellectual. If they havent heard them in school, thats a handicap for them. It is more democratic and practical for kids not to be separated from one another because of intellectual differences.” In all reality after high school, in both college and life in general, you will not be placed only with people of similar intelligence. You interact with a variety of people. High school is about preparing for life in general and without a basis or experience to work from interaction can be very difficult in later years. Constant interaction at least ensures a basis from which to work in future times.

Without this experience people in the high tracks may fail in the crucial aspects of working with others which does not bode well for the future. Tracking does have its supporters. In their opinion, tracking betters students and does not weigh down bright and innovative students with peers that are not as intellectually gifted as them. As Therese Harvey, teacher from England who used to teach tracked classes, remarked, “The theory is wonderful , but in practice it simply doesnt work. You find yourself controlling the difficult student rather than teaching any of them.

I would feel embarrassed. The good students would just look at me as if to say, Teach me something.” Our children are being held behind with those that have no desire to learn and only show an inclination to fulfill their own selfish needs. The purpose of school is going their to learn. The administration accomplishes this goal by trying to stream line students and provide an access to school to help fulfill their needs. As Lynda Tisdell, an English teacher and supporter of tracking remarks, “The side effect of tracking nobody wants to talk about is that not only does it do a disservice to honors kids, but it makes the kid who has gaps and comprehension difficulties incredibly stupid.” Thomas Jefferson was wrong; we are not all created equal.

It is time to realize that in our school systems. The schools recognize that not all people enjoy the same physical activities and seeks to provide niches in athletics and clubs to follow differences. This is the approach that is needed with tracking. We need to provide more accelerated course work for those that truly want and need them and not hide behind a quaint and out-dated notion of equality. The bigotry that envelops any school system has been pointed out as being more then apparent in tracked schools.

However this is not the case as few cases of racial discrimination have been found. As Tom Loveless, a professor from Harvard remarks, ” With more then 700 studies of tracking in existence, no convincing evidence suggest that tracking has a special, adverse effect on the achievement of African America, Latino, or disadvantaged students. Nor does research show that these students achieve at higher levels in untracked setting.” Any so called racial disparity does not exist at all with minority students. In fact as Mr. Loveless further expands his position by saying, “Gamoran and Mare conducted another analysis of national data showing that the probability of being assigned to a high track is 10 percent greater for black students than for white students.

If true, then black achievement may actually suffer from trackings abolition.” This is quite a turn around from students being discriminated because of their race. A ten percent greater chance of being higher tracked if you are an African American is nothing to scoff at. Many people do not realize that tracking actually promotes minority groups. Any racial disparity found in tracking is simply there because people are looking for it and not because of any basis in reality. The realty is, that many students do not have the same desire, ability, or drive to take the same kind of courses.

We do a disservice to both advanced students and those that are not advanced by putting them into the pressure cooker together. As Ralph Scott, a staff writer, stated “As someone who attempted to effectively teach in the same classroom students whose abilities extended from the 3rd grade level through the second year of college, it is difficult for me to fault the viewpoint that encourages tracking.” I believe that if I am a more advanced student and want to learn at a faster rate, what justification does the school system have for placing me in a group that does not desire to learn The environment in which we are raised influences us later in life and I think I speak for most people that the environment that we want to be in is one that helps us be a success. The solution for the bad rap that tracking has received is education. People need to understand that being in a lower track does not mean anything negative, but is simply the best place for that particular student. These is nothing to be ashamed of in not being an academic prodigy, I am sure half of the kids in their ivory towers do not have a fourth of the necessary life skills they will require.

In my opinion, only by allowing tracking to have a fair and unbiased chance and ensuring the ability to move from one track to the next, if the desire is there, can we have a truly fair school system. I gaze down the track at my opponents. Last place again, Damn. Ohh, well I guess I will always have the chance to beat them out, back in the classroom. The strengths that become apparent whether in school, life, or athletics must be nurtured for the individual person. By seeking to make carbon copies at school, we only become a detriment to ourselves.

My thesis is wrong, tacking does not disadvantage students and only opens boundaries for minority students. Bibliography Bassett, Patrick. Tracking and Ability Grouping. Chicago: The Riverside Press, 1998. Loveless, Tom. “Tracking.” Tracking Reform and its Value. (15 April.

1999). McVicar, Dr. Morgan. Teaching Matters. Remax: The Providence Journal, 1998. Scott, Ralph. “Untracking advocates make incredible claims.” Educational Leadership, Oct.

1993 Pg.1-23.


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