Monday, May 23, 2011

To Track or Not to Track

Lansing is embroiled in a discussion about whether to remove tracking at grades 9 and 10 in order to implement it more broadly at grades 11 and 12. Not surprisingly, parents are up in arms.

In Dryden, students may take accelerated math classes in middle school and honors science classes at the beginning of high school. Honors classes increase up the grades, and there are AP opportunities by 10th grade.

I am currently deeply ensnared in the Common Core State Standards, which schools will begin to implement next year. These "national" standards are predicated on the research-based notion that all students are empowered by more rigorous requirements, and that higher expectations yield higher returns. The truth is that more students drop out because they're bored than because they can't do the work.

That being said, I am still grateful for the opportunities at Dryden to accelerate learning. The biggest problem with tracking is that it closes doors. If it could be made more accommodating, so that kids could flow in and out of high-track classes as their grades and interests allowed, it would be less of an impediment and more of an opportunity to avoid that "teaching to the middle" mentality that heterogeneous classrooms invite. Making the system less rigid requires flexibility on the part of counselors and awareness on the part of parents and kids.


Diane said...

How do you know more kids are bored than can't do the work? Statistics, please!
And how are the Common Core standards more rigorous than anything? I've been working with them for 2 days now, and I cannot believe how vague they are.
We, with a large group of parents, tried to implement modified tracking in our school district and were run out of meetings by infuriated teachers.

KAZ said...

The stats are in a 2006 Gates Foundation study reasons, but academic failure isn't the main one. CCSS is rigorous because of the decisions it makes--to teach argument from kindergarten on, for example, or to delve deeply into connotation rather than expecting dictionary definitions of words. Did the teachers have any motivation other than fear of the new?

Diane said...

The teachers felt we were asking them to do additional work. They weren't afraid of doing something new but of doing something extra.