What is tracking?
Tracking is the practice, traditionally in high schools, of grouping students with similar ability and then teaching to that ability. This often looks like the "higher ability" students being given more complex work and asked to think more critically than the "lower ability" students who are treated with lower expectations.
What are the perceived benefits of tracking students?
Some people say that students in all tracked groups (high, middle, and low-ability class groupings) will learn more and be pushed out of their comfort zone into a more challenging zone of learning if they are with like-peers.
Some people also say that it is easier for a teacher to teach one thing to a group of students rather then have to differentiate instruction for students with differing abilities.
Some parents say that their Gifted child was used as a teacher for lower-performing peers and didn't get the chance to shine with like-minded peers.
What are the proven-through-research detriments of tracking students?
There are just so many so I will highlight what I think are the most important:
- Students learn from each other!
- Students develop communication and life skills by learning to explain, listen, and ask questions of their peers.
- Students develop relationships with more of their peers.
- Students begin to see themselves and each other as teachers!
- Teacher expectation changes student performance. This means that when students are grouped by ability teachers teach them differently and students who are perceived as "lower ability" will not be as stimulated or engaged by the teacher, or be treated as capable learners.
- Tracking only highlights tested academic skills. Many students have other skills that lend themselves to a school setting where they might have a deeper understanding of a concept that doesn't show in tests. For example, a student who understands music may be very good at math, and be not so great at taking math tests.
- Listening to students teach each other adds more strategies and ways of thinking to a teacher's toolbox. This makes them better teachers.
Something to note when you hear from parents and students who disagree (based on experience) is that they probably didn't have teachers who were excited about the differences among their students. GREAT TEACHERS will capitalize on all of the skills and abilities of their students and seamlessly create a feeling of community in the classroom. It is extremely unfortunate that there are teachers who are not willing to embrace all of their students and who complain that mixed-ability classes create more work for them. We have to always remember the goal: to teach students to want to learn, create, and make a better world, which includes all kinds of equity (and not complaining because something seems difficult).
What if instead of tracking students there were only mixed-ability classrooms?
For more info read: Why Ability Grouping Doesn't Work, What Tracking Is and How to Start Dismantling It, Tracking (in Wikipedia), Can Tracking Improve Learning? (study done in Kenya)
2. Budgeting and finance
3. Computer coding
4. Emergency medical training
5. No-bullshit sex ed
6. Cover letters and resumes
7. Sustainable living
Bonus: Splitting checks at a restaurant
Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, author of Raising Global Children, says:
"According to the National Research Council, one of the numerous research reports on this growing topic of discussion, Americans' 'pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace and produce an informed citizenry.' As Americans, we must see to it that our children develop the flexible qualities of character and mind necessary to handle the challenges that globalization poses. To become global citizens, they must learn how to communicate and interact with people around the world. We must raise global children.
Traits such as curiosity, empathy, compassion and flexibility cannot be bought, they must be taught. To be sure, travel, ethnic restaurants and cross-cultural museum exhibits can enhance a child's global mindedness. But so, too, can the treasure trove of books, music, movies, magazines and maps available at the local public library."
Her book suggests:
- Encouraging curiosity, empathy, flexibility and independence
- Supporting learning a second language as early as possible
- Exploring culture through books, food, music and friends
- Expanding a child’s world through travel at home and abroad
- Helping teens to spread their own global wings
- Advocating for teaching global education in schools
So instead of teaching the world in black and white, right and wrong, let's show children how to figure things out. It's not about the answer, it's about the learning.
In order to create actual changes to the sensory system that results in improved attention over time, children NEED to experience what we call “rapid vestibular (balance) input” on a daily basis. In other words, they need to go upside down, spin in circles, and roll down hills. They need authentic play experiences that get them moving in all different directions in order to stimulate the little hair cells found in the vestibular complex (located in the inner ear). If children do this on a regular basis and for a significant amount of time, then (and only then) will they experience the necessary changes needed to effectively develop the balance system–leading to better attention and learning in the classroom.
So, what if half of the school day was outside play?
Drawing remains a central and pivotal activity to the work of many artists and designers – a touchstone and tool of creative exploration that informs visual discovery. It fundamentally enables the visualisation and development of perceptions and ideas. With a history as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit. The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.
As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. The need to understand the world through visual means would seem more acute than ever; images transcend the barriers of language, and enhance communications in an increasingly globalised world.
Alongside a need for drawing skills for those entering employment identified by a range of industries in the creative sectors – animation, architecture, design, fashion, film, theatre, performance and the communication industries – drawing is also widely used within a range of other professions as a means to develop, document, explore, explain, interrogate and plan. This includes the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine and sport.
What if teacher-training involved public speaking and audience engagement?
This is one of the most powerful TED talks I've ever seen regarding our current state of education and teacher-training. For years I've been advocating for teachers to have training in how to understand, respond to, and react to their audience- their students. I think it a huge disservice to students when teachers aren't excited, engaged, and animated about content. This guy says teachers should watch rappers and preachers and take notes on how they engage their audiences. Amen.