Midterm Paper

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There is an old saying that goes, “Even the best laid plans can go astray”. This statement basically means that even when something is done with the best of intentions and preparation; it can still produce completely different results than what was originally intended. In America’s school systems, there are many examples of things being done with the best of intentions, but yielding less-than-desirable results. One of the largest and most prevalent examples of this can be seen when looking at the “Tracking System” that is often implemented in the majority of American schools. Although this system was brought about with the best of intentions and with no goal of hurting anyone, it is now an outdated practice that causes major problems in schools. When reading the article “How Tracking Creates a Poverty of Learning” by Mary Hatwood Futrell and Joel Gomez which examines the tracking system as it is currently, one can see that it causes and reinforces several negative attitudes towards students including the self-fulfilling prophecy, the lack of equality in the classroom, an unfair dominate culture influence, and the idea that one must assimilate in order to be accepted and do well.

If one were to take a public poll about tracking systems in schools, it would be a safe bet that most people wouldn’t even know what a tracking system is, even though the majority of Americans have been a part of one at some point in their educational career. A simple explanation of the tracking system is the division of students into different “lanes” of education based on their academic. These different lanes often include an accelerated/AP lane, a regular lane, and then the slower-paced lane. At first this sounds like a good idea, and much like communism, it is on paper; it seems only natural to separate students based on their individual abilities so you can better fit each students learning ability. However, when this system is put into practice, several unforeseen side-effects arise and it can be seen that something needs to be done about this problem.

According to the Article by Futrell and Gomez, the problem comes not in the idea of separating students based on their abilities, if fact the article argues that is a positive thing as it allows each students education to be more customized and focused to them. So what is the problem then? The article goes on to say that the real problem with the Tracking System as it is today is that it allows for much discrimination against minorities being placed into the more advanced track. Currently, students are placed into tracks based almost entirely off of their test scores and almost nothing else. The article explains that this is incredibly unfair as most of the people who place into these advanced classes come from wealthy, traditional white families. Since the testing is done so early, usually in the 6th grade, it allows students to be placed into their track before they are old enough to even have much of an influence over their education. It seems common to see that if a student comes from a family that is not as well off and does not emphasize education, they are just placed into the lower track and essential forgotten about.

In Brown vs. The Board, it was ruled that separate but equal education is inherently unequal and therefore was made illegal. This decision single handedly ended the racial segregation of schools, but this tracking system still keeps it alive. When these students are separated into their lanes of education, the curriculum they will face is different in each level. The article tells that students in the advanced classes face a challenging, college-oriented curriculum where they are encouraged and pushed to do their best. However, the students that got placed into the lower level classes face a much more watered down curriculum that focuses more on preparing the students for a career after high school, essentially telling the students they have no reason to even try...
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