I have always had an opinion on tracking. Tracking, the act of grouping students into different classrooms by academic ability, not only has overwhelmingly disastrous affects for low income and minority students, but disallows said students from tackling difficult work in a post-secondary environment. While this has always been an issue in education I have strong opinions of I never had to witness the affects of tracking until I saw what it did to my brother.
Throughout middle school and high school I witnessed my brother get tracked by guidance counselors, teachers, and coaches into vocational and general studies courses simply for the reason that he was a major force on the field and he was not to be “dragged down” by rigorous courses. The classes he was placed in placed more emphasis on rote memorization and discipline than critical thinking and creativity. As he skated by in these general courses I packed my schedule with what I call pre-Carolina courses, a mix of AP, honors, and music courses, I knew would prepare me for not only college admissions but for the challenging work I would have to complete in school. Fast forward to the end of our first year of college. While I was able to maintain above a 3.0 GPA because the courses I took in high school adequately prepared me for the work-load of college, my brother on the other hand could not make higher than a 1.5 GPA and unfortunately dropped out after his first year.
After talking to my brother about his college experience, he me told he never felt ready for the work. He never learned how to study, he never felt motivated, and the only thing he wanted to do was play basketball because that’s the only thing he thought he could do. One could argue and say “well there are certainly other factors that may have prohibited your brother from achieving in high school and college … perhaps he did not have the mental capacity to do so”. That assumption is absolutely false. When my brother took his military entrance exam a year later he scored in the 90th percentile without studying, a feat that is both rare and impressive. He is a very intelligent man.
I attribute most of the failures my brother had in college to tracking. My brother, and the rest of the students in those general studies classes were not viewed as the “success stories” of my school as those were reserved for the students in the high track classes. Instead, they were given grades high enough to ensure that our graduation rate continued to stay high (I went to Department of Defense high school where appearances were everything). I would hate to see this continue to affect young males of color and I firmly believe that we as an education system should slowly, but deliberately, move towards detracking. My definition of detracking would not necessarily be a full integration of accelerated and slow-learning students but instead would ensure that all students regardless of placement in classrooms would be provided with great teachers, better resources, and higher quality of education that continues to emphasis critical thinking and creativity.
Any education system that overwhelmingly disadvantages working class students and students of color needs to be swiftly evaluated and transformed. As we move forward in this country towards equity in our schools we must evaluate the systems within the school that promote segregation and unfairness. It is time to keep tracks in sports and away from our school systems.