When I attended elementary and middle school, the only distinction that was made between students was the homeroom teacher they were assigned to each year. Tracking never really got into full gear until once we got into high school and everyone began taking their respective honors and AP classes.
As far as tracking in regards to reading goes, I have heard a lot of negative feedback about tracking too early. Lower level readers are seen as inferior to those who are the “faster readers,” and we instill a reading divide and sense of inequality based on reading performance at an early age, where young students are developing ideas of how social interactions should occur. This plants a dangerous idea in an impressionable kid.
However, growing up and learning in an elementary and middle school with no tracking isn’t without its drawbacks. My reading classes from third grade all the way through eighth grade were filled with “popcorn readings,” whole class readings, and other group reading exercises. For some reason, our teachers thought this was a great idea to have students who didn’t read as well as others read aloud in the same context as faster readers. The process at which our elementary and middle school minds processed these concepts was like this:
“Oh cool, group reading. I guess it beats taking a quiz on it. Let me count who’s in front of me in order and see which sentence I have to read. Okay got it. Let me practice reading it a bunch of times in my head so I don’t mess up when they get to me. Huh, that person is having a lot of trouble reading their sentence. Wow, this is really annoying. I’m kinda ready to read my already practice sentence now. Wait, maybe if enough people take for freaking ever to finish their sentence we won’t have to do anything for the rest of class! Let’s see who we’re working with…okay, there’s Connor, he’s a bit slower on more than three syllable words. C’mon Connor, don’t let us down!”
Now, I’m not saying this is the right mindset to go into the exercise with, but let’s be honest. Middle and elementary schoolers are hyperactive and stop caring about the activity once it takes longer than 5 mins to get through. It honestly got to the point where the students in the class would openly talk about this after and before class:
“Do you think we’ll have to read as a class again?”
“Maybe, if we do, hey Miranda, switch seats with me so you can go first since you read slower.”
“Yeah, I’ll do it, maybe if we all just pretend to go slow, we can make her miss assigning us homework!”
Once again, stupid, but then again, so were we when we were middle schoolers. The thing is, in a tracking system, this apathy with exercises wouldn’t occur, but then again, there is the evolution of a “reading hierarchy.” In the same vein, however, a lack of tracking causes stupid middle schoolers to stop caring about reading since they are not being challenged as much as they should be.