Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Reversal Of Sorts On Tracking...

Would be nice for
all kids to get these, but
it just ain't happening
Some time ago, I went through all the positives of 'tracking' in education; this is the notion of differing levels of the same course work. Before I got to the positives, though, I named a couple of negatives.  To wit:
First, you have the ‘stigma’ of the different tracks and secondly you have the notion of familiarity, i.e. when you have the same students in every single course of a particular track. Familiarity will either a) breed contempt, so goes the cliché, or b) it will become a distraction, thanks to the chumminess that having the same classmates all day long fosters.
This isn't so much of a problem with higher/faster tracks (such as honors and Advanced Placement courses), but it is clearly a problem in any kind of lower track.  The reason it isn't a problem in the faster track is mostly due to the fact that those students are driven to succeed and feed off the competition and knowledge that most of their peers in the class are, at the very least, at the same advanced intellectual level, if not even more so.  Despite what many in academia think, I believe competition to be a good thing, something to be encouraged, and the higher/faster tracks implicitly do that.

The lower tracks, on the other hand, do more to confirm and lock students into a particular mindset and attitude, especially the whole familiarity aspect alluded to in the blocked text. It's one thing to have a course of two with a lower track (such as math and English), but once every single subject has a lower track, it becomes an exercise in segregation, with no sense of ever breaking through.  

The kids who are in mostly lower track classes all know this too, and it is demonstrated through their performance (I have taught the lower-track Scripture class for the past three years).  They stop caring, and it becomes a class of clowns who exist mostly to egg one another on.  There are a couple of students who do their best to perform, but for the most part the attitudes range from apathy to antipathy.   Any attempt to elevate the discourse of the classroom is resisted, because of what they perceive to be as lower expectations for them.  

In the original post (linked first), I said I was in favor of tracking 'for the most part', but I think now I am only in favor of a faster track, and no lower tracks at all, save for maybe a technical subject like math.  It has been made clear to me that a rising tide will raise the ships in education.  Kids who need motivation need to be in an environment where they are challenged and see others potentially pulling ahead.  Once again, it's that competition factor, but unfortunately, we are living in a competition-challenged society, especially with regard to the education sector.  I have hope, though.

It's a faint one, but nonetheless it is there.

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