New reports look at tracking students by achievement levels
As more and more "average" kids get nudged into AP classes -- especially in Florida, and especially in Hillsborough County -- they're falling into a long-running debate. Is it better for students to be grouped into separate classes by ability or all mixed together?
This new report from the Fordham Institute finds that middle schools that "track" students have more advanced students than schools that don't track, even when accounting for socioeconomic status. "In the name of equity, gap closing, political correctness and leaving no child behind, U.S. schools have been too willing to neglect their higher-performing students and the educational arrangements that best meet their needs," the report says.
Not so fast, suggests this research brief from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, which also came out this month. It cites a Long Island, N.Y., school where the percentage of black students earning traditional diplomas rose from 32 percent to 95 percent after de-tracking was phased in (along with other reforms, like smaller class sizes and intervention for students struggling in math).
The center recommends that schools phase out tracking from K-10 and grant "meaningful access" to AP and IB courses to all students. "The research on tracking is as clear as anything in the field of education," Kevin Welner, an education professor at the University of Colorado and one of the authors of the brief, told the National Journal blog. "It is a destructive practice that has the undeniable effect of lowering expectations and opportunities for students who have already fallen behind."
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