Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trouble With Tracking

The practice of dividing students into leveled tracks is making its way back into national debate. The current problem people are finding with tracking is racial and economic discrimination. The idea is that leveled tracks often work well for the very best and very worst students, but don’t properly serve the vast middle. As a result affluent students are often pushed into higher tracks over poor or minority students who may be equilly capable of success. Well, I’m a white girl who grew up in an affluent suburb and then went onto a pristigious college, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinons when it comes to tracking.

I’ve never been a member of the vast middle and don’t know what kind of injustice is being inflicted on those students. But I can tell you all about strattling the fringes. When I was in elementry school tracking wasn’t questioned by anyone, it was simply a given. The problem was that nobody knew where to put me, so they cut me into peices and stuck a limb in every box.

In fifth grade, I was placed in five different tracks. I was constantly being pulled out of my main classroom as I was carted around from one special class to another. On Thursdays I only spent 20 minutes in my mainstream classroom. I remember the anomily of those fifth grade Thursdays, because those were the days that my time in the special ed classroom and my time in the talent and gifted program overlapped. One of the TAG kids would have to walk down to the resource room and pick me up.

I consider myself lucky. Somehow in the 1980’s, when a kid had a very high IQ and didn’t know their ABC’s people paid more attention to the high IQ. The other special ed kids didn’t understand me, but the TAG kids accepted me without questions. I was their resident Rain Man, and provided them with endless entertainment. By the time I got to high school, bonehead English was the only non-honors class in my schedule. My time in special ed was short lived and the world chose to listen to me when I insisted that I wasn’t stupid – just illiterate.

I still wonder about kids today. I know one student currently deep in the confineds of special education. Everytime I talk to her, I’m shocked by how little she knows. It’s like she is a teenager trapped in the mind of a small child, but her developmental disabilities aren’t that sevier. I know her, and I know she could achieve much much more if she really tried. But she doesn’t try, and the system doesn’t expect her too. She was placed in the basement track, and nobody expects her to achieve anything.

How many learning disabled children with high IQ’s, boundless determination, and no comprehension of the alphabet are getting slouted into special ed only to be forgotten. I don’t think they give IQ tests in elementry schools anymore. Does anyone even know that these children belong in half a dozen tracks, not just one?

Joke of the Day
A man walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender is a robot that askes, "What is your IQ?" while preparing the cocktail. The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to talk to him about global warming, string theory, nano technology, and quantum physics. The customer is impressed, so after he finishes his drink he leaves and then reenters. This time when the bartender asks him his IQ, the man says 100. The robot then talks to him about NASCAR, gun control, supermodels, and baseball. Again when the man finishes his drink he leaves and reenters. This time he tell the robot bartender that his IQ is 50. The robot replies very slowly, "So...ya reelect...the mayor?"

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