Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Rising Up against Tracking

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Rising Up against Tracking

Article excerpt

Activists join forces to end this post-civil rights era style of school segregation

ATLANTA -- Old habits are hard to break. But an Alabama-based group is determined to rid its community, and eventually the nation, of elementary and secondary school tracking -- a practice members say has resulted in racial segregation and which has been proven to be injurious to the educational progress of African Americans and other students of color.

The RISE Network was formed to show community organizers nationwide how to identify and end tracking. RISE is the acronym for Replacing Inequalities in Schools with Excellence.

The Alabama network is one of seven groups that organized the Third Annual Summit on Tracking and the Miseducation of Children. The conference was held here recently in the Cosby Building at Spelman College.

"Access to higher education is being blocked due to tracking," says Southern Christian Leadership Conference lawyer Roxanne Gregory. "Minority and poor students are being placed in lower tracks that do not prepare them for higher education, while at the same time affirmative action and remedial education are being eliminated."

The practice of tracking involves grouping grade school students based on perceived academic ability. All too often, the practice ends up placing poor and minority children in less-challenging classes and White students in more advanced courses. Students who have been grouped in lower classes in high school, often must take remedial classes in college, Gregory says.

School districts could reduce the use of tracking if colleges and universities did more to train instructors to teach in classrooms with students of different levels of ability, she adds.

"There are several higher education associations that are opposed to tracking, but they have not done anything about it," Gregory says. Many, if not most, students assigned to lower tracks never even make it to college because their primary and secondary education is so deficient.

The RISE network plans to encourage colleges and universities to research tracking and create a national think tank on the issue. As its first project, the network plans to assist parents in Gainesville, Ga., where in 1995 the school district was found to be grouping children in three tracks -- uptown, midtown, and downtown. White students were most often grouped in the uptown track and poor and Black children were placed most often in the downtown track, according to Gregory. …

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