In Jeannie Oakes article on tracking in our school systems, she talked about how we as a society place our children into groups early in life that basically predetermines their futures. Oakes discusses how children’s intelligence is determined early in their life and when they appear to be above average intelligence they are put into classroom with other students who are deemed to above average. The same goes for the children who are deemed to have low abilities in the classroom. The issue that is being made here is that by placing these children in groups you are helping definitely helping the students in the above average levels however you are subsequently hurting the majority of other students. There are three quotes that I would like to use to help to convey this point in Oakes article.
“A number of studies have found that top-track classes spend more class time on learning activities and less on discipline, socializing, or class routines.”(Oakes p1)
This line to me truly stood out because of how important focus and the ability to lock into material are to me. I have been in both types of these rooms in high school myself. For my math classes I was initially placed in a general education level class that was far beneath my skill level. When I was in this class we were handed worksheets and the teacher walked around the room trying to keep order and keep kids on task more often than trying to teach new or harder material. As it became clear to the teacher that I was doing the worksheets and other materials in minutes and then was bored looking for things to do, she decided to talk to administration about bumping me up into an honors math class. After a few weeks I was transferred into this class and things changed drastically for me. Rather than worrying about what the students were doing the teacher was doing problems on the board asking for the us to get involved in the problems and how we might solve things that might be just slightly ahead of what we are learning to see if we can think logically using what we already have known. The class became more challenging for sure however; I pushed me to become better in math than I already was. This is a perfect example or what Oakes was talking about when she talks about tracking. Sadly not all teachers would have noticed that I was ahead of the rest of the class or even if they did they might not have done anything about it. This would have caused me to sit and be bored and more than likely not have learned as much in math as I did.
“In low-ability classes, for example, teachers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and behavior and less on academic learning.” (Oakes p2)
Again just to relate this back to my own personal life this sentence makes a strong impression on me. When I was in high school we had 3 floors the lowest floor being called the “basement” The only class’s that were held in “the basement”, were the heath classes for everyone, and the low-ability classes for the kids who were extremely disruptive. The example of tracking started from their early childhood when most of the kids were placed into special programs they use to be taken out of their classes for extra help and which would take away from their time with the other students to interact. Once at the high school level these kids seemed to have lost all desire to do anything school related and would just mess around. Within the school they were known as a “basement kid”, which was a term that no one used in a positive way. It meant that you were stupid. Other children would be fighting about a problem in a class and use it in conversation saying “are you stupid? What are you a basement kid?” and no one would think anything of that. The classrooms were known for being loud and extremely out of control. The students were curse out their teachers, throw things across the room as other people, and just flat out refuse to do work in the classroom. Most of their classes from what I saw when I would pass by for health, were the teachers just trying to joke and reason with the kids to keep them calm. It’s no wonder why a vast majority of those kids dropped out of high school or were expelled. The sad thing is I lived next door to one of those kids for a few years before his family moved to the other side of town and he was an extremely intelligent person he was just placed into this class early on and became cynical toward schooling.
“Recent work of cognitive psychologists suggests, for example, that academic ability is not unchangeable bud developmental and grows throughout childhood.”(Oakes p3)
This point argument brought up by Oakes I found to be really interesting to the piece. It discusses
how as a child grows their ability to learn can become better with age if taught be others or
themselves. In other words even if you start off not being able to read well or understand math well,
you can work hard at it and the ability to learn it will come in time. This is extremely interesting and
relevant to her point because if the child can learn the materials later in life but they are placed in a
low-ability classroom and never taken out, they will be deprived or an education.