Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools

Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools

Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools

Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools

Excerpt

The evils of tracking are well-documented. Tracking promotes "dumbed-down," skill-drill, ditto-driven, application-deficient curricula. It contributes to the destruction of student dreams and the production of low student self-esteem. Even when it is not intended, whole-class stratified groupings promote elitism, de facto racism, and classism. These placements can start as early as six weeks into kindergarten; and even though placements supposedly are flexible, they generally are permanent. Once a buzzard, always a buzzard! Furthermore, tracking often results in dull, unimaginative, uninspired teaching, particularly (though by no means solely) where low-track students are concerned (see, for example, Oakes 1985).

Many school districts in this country still practice whole-grade, between-class ability grouping, at least at some levels. In recent years, this practice, known as "tracking" in the United States and "streaming" in Great Britain, again has been scrutinized by researchers. But the debate is not just a scholarly one. Advocates for minorities and exceptional children have questioned both the wisdom and fairness of tracking. For many people, a tracked class is inherently undemocratic and inappropriate in a country that values equality and opportunity for all.

But tough questions remain: Does untracking make sense for all students, at all levels, or in all subjects? Will gifted and precocious students be sacrificed at the altar of socially and politically correct heterogeneity? What happens when tracked classes are untracked? Can veteran teachers who are accustomed to working with groups with a comparatively narrow range of abilities succeed with mixed-ability classes? What about inexperienced teachers? Can we expect their students to profit from inclusive student placements?

A big part of the answer to each of these questions lies in the recognition that tracked classes cannot be replaced with the same old curricula taught in the same old ways to more diverse groups of students. One size does not fit all. Meeting different individual needs is not accomplished with an undifferentiated, teach-to-the-middle curriculum. The inadequacies of a teacher-centered class that emphasizes rote memory and separate subjects become very conspicuous in untracked schools.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.