Tracking in Schools

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Keeping Track: Summary

In Jeannie Oakes's Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality, her "Keeping Track" excerpt explains the way teachers estimate a students ability to learn. Tracking is a strategy used by school and teachers to separate the "cream of the crop." From an early age students are testing on their ability to learn and their overall knowledge. Students are broken down into categories, for example; fast, average and slow learners. Many times the segregation is not based on what students are capable of, rather what the teacher believes the student it capable of. Thus putting teachers (often only one) in charge of a students entire career in school. Rarely are students themselves allowed to choose their directional path such as "vocational, general, or academic." Some schools divide not generally but on a class to class basis. If a student is more prepared for advanced math fields but lacking in the English department, then separate placements are arranged. However at most schools a student is categorized based on one standardized test to determine placement in every class. By an advanced student being placed in an advanced math course when strong abilities are in English, then even the academic student's learning is impaired. The segregation of students is often very public in nature. Labels and visual division for instruction makes these students aware of their achievements, and shortcomings. The groups are not equally divided. Even labels for lower ability students do not compare, "advanced" to "special privileged." Although teachers believe they are protecting students but providing a "slower" class, students often refer to such classes as "dummy classes." Although tracking provides advanced learning for high level students, the segregation truly makes the students believe what their teachers presume to be true of their ability.
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