I took this chapter very personal. I know I was tracked as a student in K-12, I know, because as I think back to the classes I took, and my success or lack there of in a few of them, and realize much of this must have been the way in which teachers or administration viewed me as a student. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t have teachers that saw something else, because I know I did. However, remembering the experiences I had in some classes, I know my curriculum was tracked.

The authors state, “Scores were considered a predictor of students’ capacity to learn, and teachers were encouraged to adjust their instruction accordingly” (222). If instructors were encouraged to adjust, then what harm could it be, to adjust in the opposite direction. In other words, why wouldn’t teachers be encouraged to adjust in ways that advocates a heterogeneous classroom? I imagine, this was in part, due to the fact that these changes were taking place at the onset of the 20th century, and this approach was very novel. However, if we had the room to make wider decisions that were more student centered, working to omit tracking and create heterogeneous classrooms would have been accomplished by now. So, with that said, I’d like to move on to the reasons why I believe tracking and ability grouping have been a source of debate for so many years.

“Rationales for ability grouping: The most common justifications were that, (1) students would learn better and feel better about themselves when they were grouped with students of similar achievement levels, (2) tracking promoted equality by making it easier to individualize instruction based on students’ needs, and (3) teaching and managing students sorted by ability or achievement was easier than teaching students grouped heterogeneously” (223). I need to unpack here: looking at point one reminds me of the same type of rational used when schools were segregated according to race/color. Who comes up with this stuff? What professional has a clue what it feels like to be a student in an environment where some folks are much more advantaged than others, and this is considered some sort of special need for the disadvantaged student? I would think that professionals would understand that students who are disadvantaged in some way, regardless of the reason, can only benefit from being exposed to those who retain more resources. This is the very reason why we see peer reviewing work so well in our writing center. Another example that evinces my point is curriculum that utilizes higher grades to collaborate and mentor lower grades. In Southgate, 4th and 5th grade students are brought into the kindergarten and 1st grade classes to assist these students with assignments, homework, or just talk to them about school related subjects. It has worked wonders with the students ever since it was implemented, because the higher grade students develop a sense of mentor/guidance and the lower grade students have a resource for school that is closer to their perspective.

Looking at the second point, I see nothing equal about tracking in this statement, the only point I see, which raises an eye brow is the statement about “making teaching easier” Students needs are not necessarily met, just because the instructor’s job is easier. Instructors need to put the student at the center when designing curriculum and this statement makes it clear that in 1920, this was not the case.

Again, point three raises concerns, because instead of looking at the necessity of the student, culturally, socio-politically, and/or personally, the idea that codifying abilities among students makes instruction easier is bunk. No one said teaching was easy. No one said education is egalitarian in its effort to democratize society, and no one said teachers are infallible. However, to say that teaching students in a homogeneous classroom is easier than in a heterogeneous is like saying playing football at Ford field is better than playing football at the Silverdome, it’s redundant. We all know what makes teaching easy, but that doesn’t mean that we use the easy approach all the time. We must be conscious of what benefits the student, not what makes our jobs less of a hassle. What’s the point of putting off the characteristics students must retain for college, for when they arrive at college? Why not instill in them the type of collaborative thinking they will practice at that point, before they get to that point? Easy or not, students are the reason we educate, so students should be the reason why we work diligently to do it.

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