Research has shown, time and again, that tracking, the process of grouping students and assigning their classes based on perceived ability level, is not only risky but detrimental to student achievement. So much is subjective - just like standardized tests are not the best or only way to measure student learning, we should not limit students to taking only classes in which WE think THEY will achieve good results.
Middle schoolers are not dumb - on the contrary, they are often more intuitive than we give them credit for. They will catch onto this new system at our school. The best possible way to mitigate collateral damage to their fragile and impressionable egos will be to bill this system as one that is beneficial for everyone, giving each student what they need - but I still believe that they will be attuned to the fact that they will have been sorted based on test scores (or whatever other arbitrary measure is decided upon, again without input from the students or teachers themselves). Even within my own classes this year, students would look knowingly at each other when the "smart kid" volunteered another right answer...or when the not-so-smart kid tried and failed again to give the correct again.
Furthermore, the grouping may not be intentionally or inherently racial, but principals agree that homogeneous grouping often results from socioeconomic status. And for those of you less familiar with educational inequity - or, hell, institutional racism - than myself, socioeconomic status is very closely linked to race. Basically, homogeneous grouping will lead to a disproportionate number of whites and Asians in the top tiers and their black and brown peers in the lower levels.
At my particular school, this will be a non-issue, because practically all of our students are black and brown. I teach at a public school in a large, urban district in which greater than 93% of the students are minorities (the more affluent, lighter-skinned students tend to attend private or charter schools in the area.) But I worry about the example we set as we attempt to become a flagship school for the district and beyond.
BT Bubble Sheet
BT Bubble Sheet (BTBS) is a Dallas ISD middle school teacher. Visit her blog here for more blogs in addition to what she writes for us!
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