When Excellence And Equity Thrive
Why do we tolerate the curriculum gap that results from tracking?
I am always puzzled by the arguments of those who contend that excellence and equity are mutually exclusive. The implication, of course, is that one comes at the expense of the other, and school leaders must choose between the two. If equity is chosen, then excellence will plummet—or so the warning goes. I am puzzled because my experiences as both a teacher and a principal have taught me that if a school provides increased access to its best curriculum, both excellence and equity thrive.
By any measure, the racially and socioeconomically diverse suburban high school that I serve is rated as excellent. We are a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence and twice named one of the 100 Best High Schools by Newsweek magazine. We have one of the highest Regents diploma rates in New York state, and the 16th-largest International Baccalaureate program in the world. Our students win awards, our teachers win awards, and our real estate agents are smiling. I mention this not to boast but rather to make a point: Every one of these achievements is a result of the pursuit of equity. Excellence followed.
Our research program that consistently produces Intel finalists is open to all. Its teacher actively recruits disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. Our International Baccalaureate classes, which originally began as part of a gifted program, have been open for over a decade to any student who wants to enroll. As classes have become more heterogeneous, scores have risen, not declined. Our students come from a heterogeneously grouped middle school into a heterogeneously grouped 9th grade. Special education students are included. The more we open gates and de-track, the better all students, including high achievers, do. We have worked to close the achievement gap by leveling up instruction for all students, not by placing kids in low-track, remedial classes. The percentage of Latino and African-American students in our high school studying Advanced Placement calculus exceeds the national average for all students. To pursue excellence without equity not only would be ineffective, it would...
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