Tracking students by abilities — good or bad?

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In her most recent post, Maureen Downey poses the question in her Get Schooled blog: Tracking students by abilities–good or bad?

There are politics–and market forces–to tracking. How do you keep high-achieving students (and their volunteer parents) in a public system without tracking?

Money quote:

“A recognition of the negative effects of tracking on students caused it to fall out favor in the last 25 years. Research found tracking led to inferior educations for many students consigned to the lower levels — disproportionately, low-income and minority children. Lower tracks featured more drill and repetition and less content, and teachers fell into strategies of maintaining order rather than teaching.”

To me, the problem is raising the quality of the “lower” tracks without diminishing opportunities for high achievers, and the  discipline problems that plague lower-track classrooms are largely a result of poverty and/or parenting. Politicians would rather attack public schools than help their constituents do a better job of raising kids.

What do you think?

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