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Tracking means separation of school students according to their achievements. There are three levels of achievements: above average, normal, and below average. Tracking is a standard practice in American schools. However, despite some advantages of tracking (for example, teachers can work closer with students, and students feel themselves comfortable with peers of their level), this practice frequently affects children in a negative way and might result in some serious consequences.
The importance of education was underlined in many works. For example, Counts postulated that “education is the one unfailing remedy for every ill to which man is subject, whether it be vice, crime, war, poverty, riches, injustice, racketeering, political corruption, race hatred, class conflict” (3). His ideas are confirmed by Dreeben (27), Tyack (30), Spayde (par. 5), and others. All authors agreed that school education is a way to change our society.
Tracking is related to the education equality, the importance of which was postulated by Counts (18) and Tyack (33-34). Counts stated that people who belong to the high-income class did not want their children to contact with peers from poor families. Tyack expressed the same idea underlying that “heterogeneous colonial education largely perpetuated existing differences in society” (33). Therefore, scientists and philosophers from the beginning of the century understand and highlighted that for the benefits of the whole society, educational opportunities should be equal for all children not depending on religion, race, and the level of income. However, almost one hundred years passed but the inequality of education still exists, nowadays, in the form of tracking.
Tracking is an immediate problem of American education. In his TED Talks video, Allen Chen described this process using the example of three students (Chen 00:01:02-00:05:33). He demonstrated that tracking influences children’s lives. If a child gets in an above average class, it might results in high pressure, stress, depression, and even drug use. If a child gets in classes with lower levels, he or she does not have enough motivation to increase one’s achievements and to self-develop. According to Chen, it is a great problem of the modern educational system which affects the development of the society and, consequently, the growth of country’s economy. In his video, Chen underlined the following values: education should be equal for everybody and should lead to the children’s development (Chen 00:06:48-00:07:19). It is the most important role of the education.
Allen Chen’s goal is to reform the existing educational system considering not only theoretical ideas of politicians and scientists but also practical needs of teachers and students. In particular, it his opinion, it is important to change current tracking system which seems to be unfair. To address this issue, it is important to know the current situation and to develop reforms which might make the education equally achievable for children of different race, origin, and level of income.
Allen Chen is an activist who shares his ideas through different information sources, including TED Talks video. TED talks is a popular Internet channel with videos dedicated to a wide range of pressing problems, modern trends in the society, and interesting issues and questions. These videos are popular among people of different ages all over the world. Therefore, participating in TED Talks is an excellent opportunity to share the information about a certain problem, to attract people’s attention to the issue, and to look for the help or possible solution.
Allen Chen is a senior at the Westlake High School. He as an author of TED Talk, dedicated to the problem of school tracking. In his short video, he clearly described current situation with tracking and adverse consequences of the system for particular children and the whole society. Chen underlined the advantages of tracking, the most important of which is that students from above average classes get in prestige universities in the easier way. However, due to the cited above disadvantages, Chen believed that the system should be changed and asked people to share their ideas of changing.
Chen’s video persuaded people to think about the discussed problem and to look for the solution. It became evident that tracking in the fourth grade affects children and, perhaps, in some way determines their future life. The central question that appeared after the video is how to change the system. What alternatives could exist to the tracking system? Probably, children should not be separated by their achievements. However, in this case, how will children with the high level of grades feel? Will the changed system decrease their achievements?
This problem was also considered in Reardon paper (3). According to him, the level of children’s school achievement depends on the socioeconomic status of their families (3). However, the author postulated that “we tend to think of the relationship between socioeconomic status and children’s academic achievement as a sociological necessity, rather than as the product of a set of social conditions, policy choices, and educational practices” (3) und underlined the importance of investigating the mechanisms that lead to the current situation (4).
Reardon proposed several possible explanations for the achievements gap between children from high- and low-income families. The main reason, according to him, is that parents from high-income families have more opportunities for their children’s development and higher-level education is accessible for them. Therefore, this article underlined the importance of equal quality of education for children from different families. However, the question is how to achieve this goal. As the possible solution, national free educational and children developmental programs could be cited.
Another news source which is related to the discussed problem is a The Problem We All Live With podcast with Nikole Hannah Jones. In the podcast, it was underlined that racial separation still exists (The Problem par. 4). Jonas emphasized that kids integration is the possible solution for the quality of education improvement (The Problem par. 9). Jones provided a lot of examples of social injustice in schools. This podcast is impressive due to the fact that such situation can exist in our democratic society. It is evident that the system should be changed.
It is important to learn possible ways to address the problematic issues. First, in is essential to understand how social reforms could be performed and what influence people in the society can have on the educational system. Second, it is important to understand children psychology and pedagogy to develop the alternative system. Therefore, changes should be provided not by politicians and theorists but by practicing teachers who know children’s demands and problems.
It could be concluded that the problem of tracking is the general problem of American education system. Tracking puts additional stress on those children who get in above average classes and reduces achievements and motivation on others. A lot of activists at the past and present focused their attention on the problem of education inequality and its consequences. Tracking is an example of such inequality. It is understandable that the system should be changed for the good of the society.
Chen, Allen. “Student Tracking Needs to End.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 9 Feb. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7z0pENGUD8.
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Counts, George S. Dare the School Build a New Social Order? The John Day Company, 1932.
Dreeben, Robert. On What is Learned in School. Addison-Wesley, 1968.
Reardon, Sean F. “The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and The Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations.” Whither opportunity?: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, edited by Greg J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane, 2011, pp. 91-116.
Spayde, Jon. “What Does it Mean to Be Educated?” Utne Reader. 1998
“The Problem We All Live With. Transcript.” This American Life, uploaded . 2015.
Tyack, David. “Forming the national character: Paradox in the educational thought of the revolutionary generation.” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 36., no. 1, 1966, pp. 29-41.