I grew up in a small South Texas border city, Laredo. In Laredo, most individuals, including myself, spoke Spanish as a first language, and gradually learned to speak, read, and write English in grade school. Another characteristic of Laredo was the distinction between families who were well off and those who were not, but there was never really an “in-between.” After attending private catholic school for 10 years, pre-kinder through eighth grade, my parents decided it was time for a change. My public high school, John B. Alexander, was a rather large school with each class averaging around 700 students. It was quite a change compared to my eighth grade graduating class of 48 students, but I was both ready and anxious for that change.
Alexander had a rigorous Health Science Magnet program that admitted around 120 students each year, and I was one of them. Students in this program were admitted based on an achievement test given the summer prior to their freshman year in school. If admitted, all students in the program were required to take only Pre-AP and AP classes throughout their 4 years in school. Outside of the program there were AP, Pre-AP, GT, regular, and remedial classes that were readily available to any other students. There were always those students who spoke in the hallways about the kids in “regular” classes who were “too dumb” to be put in Pre-AP or GT. Or those stuck in remedial classes because they didn’t pass their TAKS test requirements. But there were other students too, including some of my best friends. They were the ones who had the capability of succeeding in an AP course, yet they were put in regular classes. I never had any problems with this process since my status in the magnet program automatically placed me in the classes I needed. It became a problem when friends of mine requested to be moved out of a regular class and into an AP class, and they were denied. Did I mention the teachers and counselors were the ones to decide which students are to be put in which classes? This was the so-called “tracking” that I had heard about, and I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with it.
Tracking, according to the American Educational Research Journal, is the sorting of students into groups, classes, and schools, as they progress through the public education system (LeTendre, Hofer, and Shimizu 43). Throughout the years, sociologists have studied the various mechanisms that are used to determine the placement of students in these particular tracks. Some of the most common factors of tracking include cultural and social capital and their links to social class.
This relationship between cultural and social capital and social class is rather significant to the tracking process. John Noble and Peter Davies can vouch for this significance with their study featured in the British Journal of Sociology Education. Noble and Davies expressed concern for the recent debate regarding the role of social class in higher education in...