Tracking? Does it make some kids feel dumb?
from the High School Chatboard
Posted by Emma
I am a student at Illinois State University and I am doing a project for my Adolescent Development class. Part of this project is to communicate with teachers to find out how they feel about tracking. Some say that it is good and some say that it makes some students feel dumb. How do you feel about it? Also, what about standardized tests? Do you think a student's scores could make them perform in school a certain way?
Response by Sue:
It's not just that tracking can make you "feel dumb." It means that you are denied the chance to learn more, if in fact you were actually capable of it.
Test scores don't make you perform a certain way. However, the same lack of skills *or* abilities that *could* be the reason for the low test scores would also make it hard to do what would be required for higher level learning. (There are other things that lead to low standardized test scores of course.)
Response by Nancy:
A lot depends on how you are defining "tracking." If you see it as a student being arbitrarily placed at a certain level (college bound, tech prep, basic) and not allowed to move up, based entirely upon standardized test scores, then yes, tracking is harmful. If, on the other hand, you mean grouping students together based on their demonstrated skills (previous class work, standardized tests, etc.) then I think tracking is a good thing.
An advantage of the latter definition is that the students have a chance to shine among students of their own speed. Frequently they do not have that opportunity when mixed with much smarter students. If they have been socially grouped for many years (all the teacher's and doctor's kids together because they are expected to be smart), they may feel embarrassed because they're in the "dumb group". That's their terminology and their problem. A lot depends on how their parents deal with it. Tracking also allows teachers to make students take a more challenging class. I have had many gifted students take a lower level class because they wanted to breeze through, rather than learn.
Response by Sara:
Tracking has its problems and it certainly makes some students feel lesser than others. Yet if we don't track, we end with classrooms that are impossible to teach.
Standardized tests are one of the great mistakes of modern education. They accomplish nothing that's positive for schools or their students.
Response by Jon:
This is an amazing statement which, unlike the first more thoughtful and reflective comment, offers absolutely no backing or reasoning whatsoever to support it. It is a statement of opinion only, in view of the preponderance of empirical and theoretical evidence that standardized tests are essential. For one thing, standardized testing represents the only feasible or realistic way to allocate all too scarce financial and manpower resources in managing the public education of millions in a way that approaches equity in opportunity for students (because performance against learning standards that are supposed to be taught are measured) and places equity in expectations for teaching upon both teachers and schools. The latter point is important. Again, because student performance against learning standards that are supposed to be taught are measured and there is an assumption that students in one part of the state or country are not inherently more stupid than others, if students fail in one region and not in another, it is because the teachers and schools, not the students, are not performing. Consequently, such a blanket statement warrants explanation and, without it, the individual looks like he or she has an ax to grind (e.g., being judged harshly by poor standardized test performances among his/her students).
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