June 9, 2017

Point: Tracking is Most Effective Method of Grouping Students


Jacob Bier ‘19

Everybody can agree that education will never be perfect. There are too many conflicting ideas out there for one form of learning to satisfy every student, parent and teacher. However, in my mind, there are clearly forms of learning that are much better than others. For one, tracking students.
Every student learns at a different speed. Some students can immediately grasp material that is taught in class. Other students need lots of time and practice in order to fully understand the material. Separating students based on their learning speed is highly beneficial to the teachers, the faster-learning students and the slower-learning students.
Teaching in a heterogeneous classroom is extremely difficult. A teacher must accommodate both the faster-learning students and the slower-learning students. This is almost impossible to do. If the teacher goes too fast, it could have disastrous effects on the slower-learning students. On the other hand, if the teacher goes too slow, it could have negative effects on the faster-learning students.
Marilyn Barr, grandmother of a GOA student and retired teacher of 25 years, said that it was very tough for a teacher to find this happy medium.
“In a mixed class, a teacher has to learn how to differentiate between different types of learners,” she said. “Accommodating to each type is very hard, even for experienced teachers.”
Teaching in a tracked class in much easier. In fast-moving and slow-moving classes, teachers are able to move at whichever pace is best suited for the students. The teacher no longer needs to worry about moving too slowly or students falling behind.
A heterogenous class that moves too slowly can be detrimental to faster-learning students. Joann P DiGennaro, the President of the Center for Excellence in Education, says that once faster-learning students had mastered a concept, they consistently reported boredom in the classroom. This means that heterogeneous classrooms can cause faster-learning students to see their desire to learn dissipate.
In a tracked class, these faster-learning students can learn quickly and make substantial progress in their education. By putting them in a tracked class, they are encouraged to learn more material and they are challenged by their teachers.
Similarly, a heterogeneous class that moves too quickly can be detrimental to slower-learning students. DiGennaro says that once a teacher finishes teaching a lesson, and moves on to new material, the slower-learning students report confusion. A lack of understanding means that these students will inevitably receive bad grades. On top of that, these students will be compared to the faster-moving students in the same class. This can result in a loss of self-esteem.
In a tracked class, these slower-learning students can learn at a pace that allows them to understand all of the material. This will allow the students to fully understand the material and therefore, receive better grades.
Obviously, the system of tracking students is not perfect. There are still many problems that must be fixed. For example, a student doing poorly in a high class might be moved down to a lower class. Similarly, it is very difficult for a student excelling in a low class to move up to a higher class.

There will never be a class system that everybody agrees upon. Nevertheless, the tracking system is able to accommodate the most people and therefore must be considered as the best option.

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