Essay about Tracking in the U.S. Public Schools

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Tracking is the grouping of students by perceived academic abilities for instruction. As a pedagogical strategy, tracking was initially introduced into U.S. public schools in the early 1900’s as a way to educate and socialize the broadly changing population of urban, northern cities that swelled from European immigration and poor southern black transplants seeking better opportunities. Societal beliefs of the time regarding distinct division of classes and the requisite assimilation of immigrants into American culture resulted in new educational laws that popularized a system that segregated classrooms into “slow, bright and deficient” (Ansalone, 2010, p. 4) levels of learners. Tracking was viewed and used as a practical strategy in educating an increasingly diverse population of students with different native languages and educational backgrounds.
LaPrade’s 2011 review of educational research shows tracking remains a common practice; in the U.S., it is employed in approximately 60% of grammar schools and 80% of high schools. Popular tracking programs such as AP, honors, and even special education classes have come under much scrutiny and criticism in the last several decades. Concerned parents and educators question the degree of educational equality the programs offer and the apparent stratification of students by race, gender and socioeconomic status that result from the assignments. Meanwhile, supporters of tracking see it as an effective way to provide tailored, level or ability appropriate instruction for all students.
According to Ansalone (2010), proponents for academic tracking support its continued use by calling on four general assumptions the pedagogical strategy makes. The first hypothesizes that academic ach...

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... and social stratification tracking programs can create.

Ansalone, G. (2010). Tracking: Educational Differentiation or Defective Strategy. Educational Research Quarterly, 34(2), 3-17. Retrieved from ERIC.
Ansalone, G. (2005). Getting our schools on track: Is detracking really the answer? [computer file]. Radical Pedagogy, 6(2), p. 1. Retrieved from Education Full Text database.
LaPrade, K. (2011). Removing instructional barriers: One track at a time. Education (Chula Vista, Calif.), 131(4), 740-52. Retrieved from Education Full Text database.
Lotan, R. (2006). Teaching teachers to build equitable classrooms. Theory into Practice, 45(1), 32-9. doi: 10.1207/s15430421tip4501_5
Rubin, B. C. (2006). Tracking and detracking: Debates, evidence, and pest Practices for a heterogeneous world. Theory Into Practice, 45(1), 4-14. Retrieved from ERIC.

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