Monday, April 18, 2016

Quoted: Robert D. Putnam (Bowling Alone) on education tracking

[…] the practice of separating students into college prep and non-college prep tracks, while for decades was common and tended to provide a modest edge to kids from more educated homes. During the period in which the opportunity gap has widened, however, access to the college-prep track among kids from less privileged backgrounds has increased. Tracking continues to provide a slight advantage to upper-class kids, but it can’t account for the substantial increase in the overall opportunity gap. — Robert D. Putnam from Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
My high school went a little excessive with the tracking, Instead of the usual two or three, we had a whopping six ability tracks, which roughly translated to honors, second honors, above average, average, lower average and remedial. I think it was originally used to indicate the difficulty of the course, not label the kids, but once you’re slapped with a 1 or a 2 or a 6, the label stuck. (Those of us in the second honors-above average tracks called ourselves the dumb “1′s.” - smart but not smart-smart, you know.) It was highly political. The years I was there I never saw one student of color in an upper track. If you went to an under-performing grade school, no matter how well you tested they’d assume you couldn’t do the work without a lot of “catch-up” and those honors classes were hard to get into without some serious parental intervention.