Tracking (education)

Tracking (education)

Tracking (also called ability grouping or streaming) is the practice, in education, of placing students into different groups within a school, based on academic abilitiescite journal | last=Ansalone | first= George | year=2003 | title=Poverty, Tracking, and the Social Construction of Failure: International Perspectives on Tracking | journal=Journal of Children & Poverty | volume=9 | issue=1] . For years, schools in the United States and Great Britain have used tracking (called streaming in Great Britain) as a way of dividing students into different “tracks” to facilitate learning. Though the terms “tracking” and “ability grouping” are often used interchangeably, Gamoran (1992) differentiates between the twocite journal | last=Gamoran | first=Adam | year=1992 | title=Is Ability Grouping Equitable? | journal=Educational Leadership | volume=50 | issue=2] . He uses the term “tracking” to describe the manner by which students are separated into groups for all academic subjects, but “ability grouping,” on the other hand, is the within-class separation of students into groups, based on academic ability. High ability groups are often assigned special work that is more advanced than that of the other students in the class.

Track Assignment

The ways by which students are assigned to tracks and the amount of fluidity within the tracking system varies by school. While some schools assign students to a particular track and do not allow for mobility between tracks, other schools allow students to be placed into an advanced class for one subject and a lower-ranking class for another.cite journal | last=Slavin | first=Robert E. | year=1990 | title=Achievement Effects of Ability Grouping in Secondary Schools: A Best-Evidence Synthesis | journal=Review of Educational Research | volume=60 | issue=3 | pages=471–499] The types of tracks have also changed over the years. Traditionally, there were academic, general, and vocational tracks, but many schools now base track levels on course difficulty, with tracks such as basic, honors, or college-prep.cite journal | last=Hallinan | first=Maureen | year=1994 | title=Tracking: From Theory to Practice | journal=Sociology of Education | volume=67 | issue=2 | pages=79–84 | doi=10.2307/2112697] Although, in theory, track assignment is based on academic ability, other factors often influence placement. Non-academic factors such as schedule conflicts often affect students’ track assignments. Secondary schools, in general, tend to assign students to high tracks based on objective criteria, while low-track students are often placed using more-arbitrary measures. In some cases, placement is based entirely on student decision.

Advantages of Tracking

Proponents of tracking say that it has several important strengths. A major advantage of tracking is that it allows teachers to better direct lessons toward the specific ability level of the students in each class.

Another positive aspect of tracking is that since it separates students by ability, students’ work is only compared to that of similar-ability peers, preventing a possible lowering of their self-esteem that could result from comparisons with the work of higher ability students, or inflating the egos of the high-ability students when compared to low-ability, same-age students. Since high self-esteem is correlated with high academic achievement, tracking should, theoretically, promote academic success for low-ability students.

Supporters of tracking also note that it allows for higher achievement of high-ability studentscite journal |last=Kulik | first= James A. | coauthors= Chen-Lin C. Kulik | year=1992 | title=Meta-analytic findings on grouping programs | journal=Gifted Children Quarterly | volume=36 | issue=2 | pages=73–77 | doi=10.1177/001698629203600204] . Kulik and Kulik (1992) found that high-ability students in tracked classes achieved more highly than similar-ability students in non-tracked classes. In another study, Argys, Rees, and Brewer (1996) found that high-track students’ achievement dropped when lower-ability students were integrated into the same classcite journal | last=Argys | first= L. M. |coauthors= Rees, D. I., & Brewer, D. J. | year= 1996 | title= Detracking America's Schools: Equity at Zero Cost? | journal=Journal of Policy Analysis and Management | volume=15 | issue=4 | pages= 623–645 | doi= 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6688(199623)15:4<623::AID-PAM7>3.0.CO;2-J | doilabel= 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6688(199623)15:4623::AID-PAM73.0.CO;2-J] . Both of these studies suggest that tracking is beneficial to high-track students. Tracking can also encourage low-ability students to participate in class since tracking separates them from intimidation of the high-ability students. Some supporters of tracking also view tracking as an effective means of allocation since it helps direct students into specific areas of the labor market.


Despite the positive aspects of tracking, many scholars have noted limitations of the system. Tracking often does not work as effectively as it should because of the composition of the tracks. In practice, tracks are generally not as homogeneous as they could be (although they are more homogenous than a non-tracking system, which randomly assigns students to classrooms), so some of the potential benefits can not be fully exploited. Even when tracks initially are nearly homogeneous in students’ academic abilities, heterogeneity can develop over time, since students learn at different rates. Some systems reevaluate all students periodically to keep students of comparable ability together as they progress.

Low-track classes tend to be primarily composed of low-income students, usually minorities, while upper-track classes are usually dominated by students from socioeconomically successful groups.cite journal |last=Hyland | first=N. | year=2006 | title= Detracking in the Social Studies: A Path to a More Democratic Education? | journal=Theory Into Practice | volume=45 | issue=1 | pages=64–71 | doi= 10.1207/s15430421tip4501_9] Jeannie Oakes theorizes that the disproportionate placement of poor and minority students into low tracks does not reflect their actual learning abilities.cite journal | last=Oakes | first=Jeannie | year=1987 | title=Tracking in Secondary Schools: A Contextual Perspective | publisher=Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp] In addition to the unequal placement of students into tracks, there is evidence to support the assertion that the appointment of teachers to classes is disproportionate. The most-experienced, highest-status teachers are often assigned to teach high-track classes, whereas less-experienced teachers are usually assigned to low-track classes. cite journal | last=Davis | first=D. G. | year=1986 | title=A pilot study to assess equality in selected curricular offerings across three diverse schools in a large urban school district: A search for methodology. | journal=Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco] Teachers of the high-track courses were found to be more enthusiastic in teaching, better at providing explanations, and more organized than teachers of low-track courses. Scholars have also found that curricula often vary widely among tracks, as might be expected. Lessons taught in low-track classes often lack the engagement and comprehensiveness of the high-track lessons, reflecting their more remedial nature. This can put low-track students at a disadvantage for college acceptance because they often do not gain the knowledge and skills of the upper-track students, presuming they could and would if not taught under a tracked system. Oakes (1985) found that in high-track classes, teachers often used course materials and taught concepts which required extensive critical-thinking skills, whereas teachers in low-track classes tended to draw heavily from workbooks and rarely assign work that required critical thinking. cite journal | last=Oakes | first=Jeannie | year=1985 | title=Distribution of Knowledge | journal=Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality | publisher=Yale University Press] In general, curricula of high-track courses are much more intensive and in-depth than those of low-track courses, as would be expected. cite journal | last=Spade |first= J. Z. | coauthors= Columba, L., & Vanfossen, B. E. | year=1997 | title=Tracking in Mathematics and Science: Courses and Course-Selection Procedures | journal=Sociology of Education | volume=70 | issue=2 | pages=108–127 | doi=10.2307/2673159]

Some studies suggest that tracking can influence students’ peer groups and attitudes regarding other students. Gamoran’s study (1992) shows that students are more likely to form friendships with other students in the same tracks than students outside of their tracks.cite journal | last=Gamoran | first=Adam |year=1992 | title=The Variable Effects of High School Tracking | journal=American Sociological Review | volume=57 | issue=6 | pages=812–828 | doi=10.2307/2096125] Since low-class and minority students are overrepresented in low tracks with Whites and Asians generally dominating high tracks, interaction among these groups can be discouraged by tracking. cite journal | last=Khmelkov | first=V. | coauthors=Maureen Hallinan | year=1999 | title=Organizational Effects on Race Relations in Schools | journal=Journal of Social Issues | volume=55 | issue=4 | pages=627–645 | doi=10.1111/0022-4537.00139]

Tracking can also result in a stigmatization of low-track students. In some cases, this stigmatization is thought to have a negative impact on students’ academic performance and to influence students’ attitudes. In one study, it was found that, among low-achieving students, students in tracked classes were more likely than students in non-tracked classes to believe that “their fate was out of their hands.” cite journal | last=Braddock | first=J. H. | coauthors=R. E. Slavin | year=1992 | title=Why Ability Grouping Must End: Achieving Excellence and Equity in American Education | journal=Paper presented at the Common Destiny Conference, Johns Hopkins University]

Proposed Reforms to the Tracking System

Maureen Hallinan offers many suggestions for reforming the tracking system and counterbalancing its perceived negative consequences. Although tracking can segregate students by race and socioeconomic status, she says that, by ensuring that students are engaged in integrated settings during the school day, some of the negative effects of the segregation could be avoided. Some studies suggest that low-track students often have slower academic growth than high-track students, but Hallinan says that providing more-engaging lessons in class, altering assumptions about students, and raising requirements for students’ performance could help. In order to prevent stigmatization of low-track students, Hallinan suggests that schools challenge low-track students to achieve highly and should offer public rewards for gains in academic achievement.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Education in the United States — of America U.S. Department of Education Secretary Deputy Secretary Arne Duncan Anthony Miller …   Wikipedia

  • Education reform — is the process of improving public education. Small improvements in education theoretically have large social returns, in health, wealth and well being. Historically, reforms have taken different forms because the motivations of reformers have… …   Wikipedia

  • Tracking — can refer to: Tracking (education), separating children into different classes according to their academic ability Tracking, in computer graphics, a vital part of match moving Tracking, in portfolio management, matching or comparing with a stock… …   Wikipedia

  • Tracking (hunting) — Tracking in hunting and ecology is the science and art of observing a place through animal footprints and other signs, including: tracks, beds, chews, scat, hair, etc. Specifically, mapping a changing landscape and soaking up sensory data like a… …   Wikipedia

  • Education in Singapore — Ministry of Education Minister Heng Swee Keat National education budget (2006) Budget S$6.966 billion General Details Primary Languages …   Wikipedia

  • Education in Finland — Ministry of Education and Culture Minister of Education and Science Minister of Culture and Sport Jukka Gustafsson Paavo Arhinmäki National education budget (2009) Budget …   Wikipedia

  • Education policy — refers to the collection of laws or rules that govern the operation of education systems. Education occurs in many forms for many purposes through many institutions. Examples include early childhood education, kindergarten through to 12th grade,… …   Wikipedia

  • Education in District Dir Lower — Education in the Lower Dir District in Pakistan. Education demographicsThe total gross enrollment ratio is 59.83% [Education department survey for UPE in year 2005] without including Kachi and 79.59% including Kachi class. Student teacher ratio… …   Wikipedia

  • education, sociology of — Education is a philosophical as well as a sociological concept, denoting ideologies, curricula, and pedagogical techniques of the inculcation and management of knowledge and the social reproduction of personalities and cultures. In practice, the… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • EDUCATION — Pre State 1880–1914. Education in the small yishuv, which numbered about 25,000 in 1880, largely resembled the traditional types prevailing in Jewish communities elsewhere. The Jews of East European origin maintained the traditional ḥeder, talmud …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”