Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Perpetuating Inequality?

When I first heard of the idea of tracking Math classes in the Junior Year within Montessori, here at the school that is philosophically opposed to tracking; I chuckled. I was wondering how QHST would allow such a blatant disregard of the tenants that Jeanie Oaks back in 1992 said “tracking… had a particularly negative impact on the opportunities of low-income, African- American, and Latino students." Tracking is the cause of so much of the inequality in our school system.

A study done in Canada does claim that “untracking” math failed in the Ontario Schools system. The research showed that teachers unwilling to change their approach to teaching math, who were not given enough professional development to affect the change, and who were unwilling to implement the pedagogical changes that were offered were to blame for the failure. It does not claim that tracking math works better simply that math teachers work better when math is tracked. (very student centered ?)

I then continued my search with all my free time. I came across a progressive educational radio show that aired in Michigan and found the transcript. The on-air personalities clearly showed the benefits of tracking math, but still could not jump the hurdle of inequity created by tracking.

Why are we teaching? Are we not molding the next generation? We need to be cognizant of our acceptance of the practices of inequality. Turning a blind eye here to inequality is a dangerous slippery slope.

Finally, I began to ask my friends what they thought (this is a lie, as Mayo knows all to well, I have no friends, I work too much).

Apparently, Long Island High Schools have began to take the progressive leap toward untracking before us. Excited to hear this I began to look at the Rockville Center School District (upper middle class). EVERYONE MUST READ THIS ARTICLE.

Math teachers in our building will be sitting down to discuss this policy within the next week here at QHST. I think everyone should have a voice when equality and justice are at stake.


Anonymous said...

When I had a chance to observe your clases, and others in the building, I was amazed by what I saw going on the classroom. Students were working together, everyone, to the best of their ability was contributing. The best thing was, I couldn't tell "who was who;" who was "honors," who was "slow," etc. Why? because everyone was working together, to the best of their abilities.

For cooperative learning, and other activities to work, you need to have people of different ability levels, and with different skills. In some ways, it's kind of like a band, or a football team. You can't have eleven lineman, or five guitar players (unless you're Lynyrd Skynyrd, LOL). In order for all aspects of a task to be completed, you need people with different skills to do them. I don't know if this can happen in a tracked class; especially if you "scoop" the higher level kids out of the groups; taking away the role models, and positive influences from the other students.

Anonymous said...

The problem we have with Math is that a few our students would like to attend certain programs that required them to take Calculus. The question for all of us is : Should we deny these students the opportunity, because we do not track?
The Art teachers are been allowed to track the classes. They only offer the electives to those students who want to persue an Art carrer. Why can we offer the same opportunity to those students who want to become "MATH TEACHERS" and be part of the TIME 2000 program at Queens College?. The program pays for it.

Anonymous said...

Wow... where have you guys been? We have had tracked classes here for years. What do you call Spanish 5/6? By it's nature, and to no ones fault or credit, is tracked and only admits students looking to receive an advanced regents diploma. That would not therefore be a mixed-ability class. And, doesn't this not only track these students' Spanish class, but results in the tracking of their entire program?

Is any art course above the minimum requirement considered a tracked class? If you are in Drawing and Painting (an advanced course), isn't it assumed that you are "high ability" in art? Drawing and Painting thus does not seem to be a mixed-ability class. And if that's okay, then why, if you are stronger in any of the other disciplines is tracking seen in a negative light? I'm not sure where I stand on the issue because quite honestly there is no clear definition of tracking at QHST.
So far this is what I get...

If you are strong in languages, then tracking is fine. Let's track Spanish classes.

If you are stong in the arts, then tracking is fine. Lets track all "advanced" art classes.

If you are strong in math, then tracking is fine. Students here have always moved through math at their own pace... Math B for example has seemed to be a mixed-grade, ability-based course. In addition, isn't Statistics tracked?

If you are strong in any other subject, then we must resist tracking at all costs.

Could someone please clarify why students in advanced Languages, Art or Math courses differs from students ELECTING to take an AP History or Science Course (in addition to, NOT instead of their mixed-ability core classes)? For example, student A loves art, thus ELECTS to take Advanced art, and student B loves History and thus ELECTS to take AP History as an elective in addition to and outside of his/her core history class?

Clarification of what exactly tracking is would be helpful in determining if it is right or not for our school.

Anonymous said...

First let's get your information correct...The art teachers don't only offer classes to students who want to pursue an arts career, they are offered to any student who is interested in the arts talented or not.
Our electives have a variety of students:
Students who have failed studio 1 and need the art credit to graduate (repeaters, which by the way doesn't happen in other subjects, please correct me if I am wrong) students who are interested in the arts and students who are going to college for the arts.

Why do people look at student choice as bad? Why can't students elect to be in classes they want?

Isn't it better for our upper classmen to ELECT to take a class that they are interested in (tracked or not) rather than having 15 frees throughout the week?

My students come in early one day a week (before our day begins) and work for two more periods a week that they could have "frees" for. They are obviuosly motivated and not all necassarily "high ability".

Doesn't part of our concept paper state to "foster student interest"? Isn't one way to do this by student choice?

Also as educators we should know not everything is in black and white there are shades of gray as well. Must we try and be so rigid and lose our student's interest? Why not have AP as an option? Can't you call it something else if the name bothers you so much?


Anonymous said...

I think that the problem may simply be the fact that SOME of us believe that ALL of us should discuss the decisions made regardless of whether we teach in that content area.


Anonymous said...

Advanced art should no longer be called that because of this misunderstanding that the class is only "high ability" and "does not seem to be a mixed ability class". Advanced art is strictly mixed abilities. Feel free to step into any second year art class and see for yourself. All are welcome in a second year art class if chosen due to interest. Perhaps the word "advanced" should be removed due to this misunderstanding. Is the writing center for high ability writers only? Is the basketball team tracked because certain skills and grades are needed to make the team? Is it ok to put a student in Spanish II when they havn't taken Spanish I? Why don't we just mix first graders with six graders in classrooms for now on. Let's do away with grades all together.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that the art electives are mixed grade as well. This naturally lends itself to a mixed ability classroom.

I have 11th and 12th graders in my drawing and painting elective, some will have had me for two years some three. This varies the levels of artistic problem solving skills (or abilities if you will)within each individual.


Anonymous said...

Re: your question about why do we keep talking about the same issues. Maybe because nothing changes and the inherent problems only get worse, like an untreated infection.

Anonymous said...

What are the inherent problems?

Whose responsibility is it to change them?

How should they be changed?