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Ability Tracking Essay

1689 words - 7 pages

Ability Tracking

Introduction

If there is one general consensus among those who analyze America’s system of education, it is that we are lacking somewhere. Whether it’s in our inner-city schools, or rural districts, there is a distinct literacy dilemma that has yet to be resolved in our schools. Not only are we gravely behind other nations in our literacy rate and mathematics abilities, but there is also an increasing void within our schools. A method of segregation known as “ability grouping” has been a commonly used practice throughout the 90’s, and has changed the way in which primary and secondary school students are educated.

The idea behind ability grouping, or tracking, is that “many school practitioners assume that grouping by ability promotes student’s achievement because, it is argued, all students learn best when grouped with students of similar capabilities or levels of achievement.”(Perceptions) There are many arguments for either side, thus begging the question “is ability grouping an efficient way to handle differences in student abilities?”(Education World) Contrary to today’s popular opinion, which naturally runs against the current educational structure of our schools, I believe ability tracking is an effective and worthwhile means of educating our youth, for a variety of reasons. Ability tracking promotes academic achievement, quality instruction, and is a means of student motivation. Unfortunately, those who do not participate willingly in the tracking program can easily become lost or distraught with the system. This having been said, I don’t deny the fact that many improvements can be made to the existing system as a means of expanding and providing opportunities to all those who desire success.

Academic Achievement

In an essay, Anne Wheelock, a prominent education critic writes, “Tracking does not result in the equal and equitable distribution of effective schooling among all students. Instead, tracking allocates the most valuable school experiences -- including challenging and meaningful curriculum, engaging instruction, and high teacher expectations -- to students who already have the greatest academic, economic, and social advantages…” This having been said, I found my high school experiences to be much different than that.

I attended a primarily middle-class school in Sacramento, CA, with students from every conceivable culture and background. We had several different tracking programs in our school: a special education program for “mentally-disabled” students, the standard curriculum high-school education, an “International Studies” program, and the “International Baccalaureate” program, which is essentially equivalent to any honors or advanced placement education. Given the many facets of my school, I never once got the impression that students were being discriminated against on basis of ability. All students, including my friends, were given ample opportunity to pursue any education...

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