Author Topic: Tracking Wars  (Read 38 times)


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Tracking Wars
« on: June 13, 2022, 07:07:46 pm »
The Tracking Wars
State Reform
Meets School Policy

Tom Loveless

Brookings Institution Press 1998

I was expecting that Tom Loveless would have been a parent of a child in the Gifted Program. It is usually they who are the most adamant about defending tracking. So I was expecting I would be reading the suburban real estate section of the news paper.

But no, Loveless taught for 9 years in CA public schools. Then he went to U Chicago to do a doctorate. The work for this book started with his thesis.

As Loveless explains, the Anti-Tracking Movement started in CA and MA, and a little bit in NV and MD. And it was mostly because of the Jeannie Oakes book, Keeping Track (1985), and also because of Annie Wheelock in MA.

I talk about reading the Oakes book before.

Other Loveless books?

Yes, about Math scores.

Loveless also invoked the work of this John Kingdon, to explain how untracking became such a political issue:

Agendas, alternatives, and public policies / John W. Kingdon. (1995)

Basically decades after Brown v Board we still have this racial achievement gap.

And so there was a hunt for the cause and it looked like the cause was school tracking. This was mainly coming from Jeannie Oakes and her UCLA mentors.

And yes, decades ago tracking was done by IQ tests and it was quite racially driven. But this is not the case today.

And going back to the 19th century, organized labor originally opposed having vocational programs in high schools.

By the 1890's though organized labor changed positions. They were strongly committed to having vocational programs in high schools, as they have remained ever since.

They'd seen the rise private trade schools, and they did not want support siphoned away from the public schools. They say the public schools as the best opportunity for economic advancement for their own children.

And this was before there we IQ tests!.

Now, the efforts to remove tracking have only gone so far. In urban schools you have had the most untracking, and it is the remedial programs which have most likely gotten cut. Suburban schools still have the most tracking.

The subjects most tracked, in order are:


And then English Dept's are quite receptive to untracking. It is Math where there is the most commitment to tracking.

Even Oakes talks about this, when you untrack, what you often go to are cooperative learning enviroments, and these often involve team teaching and oversize classes.

To me this sounds like stuff shown in the movies To Sir With Love and Black Board Jungle.

If you want world class knowledge, even putting aside concerns about college, these types of exercises do not do it.

And also I would say that the Gifted Movement is not supposed to mean a top track. The original idea was of some few students who really stand out. And then what is usually wanted are things like AP classes, grade acceleration, and early college entrance.

AP is like a top track, but the other stuff is not.

There was also this Middle School Movement. This was teachers who did not want jr high to be like high school. They wanted it to be more like elementary school. So they sent the 9th graders to high school, and then often they extended the lowest grade do to the 5th.

They wanted it all untracked and they wanted generally qualified teachers, not narrow subject specialization.

ANd then of the racial achievement gap, it got to an all time low in the late 80's.

BUt then it started widening again. Is this untracking or school defunding or the rise of charter schools?

Public schools are still the best for achieving equality and tracking, or at least ability grouping, is part of how this is accomplished.

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