Joanne Jacobs blogs about a report on tracking in middle schools in Massachusetts released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute this week. The report found that schools with tracking have more students with advanced knowledge in mathematics than those without it. The edition of EdWeek that went to press today has coverage of the report.
Joanne adds a personal note that in the late 1960s, her high school had tracking and she loved it because it saved her from boredom. She acknowledges that it might not have been such a good deal for slower learners.
My senior year of high school, I transferred to a public school in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the home of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a government research center. Oak Ridge High School enrolled a large number of students whose parents were scientists and worked at the laboratory. I remember that 13 of my peers in the senior class were National Merit Finalists, and I was intimidated by them.
The school had tracking, and I was put in all the advanced classes. For the academic area of mathematics, I was tracked way beyond my ability and knowledge. But I did enjoy the tracking into Advanced Placement English, the first AP class I’d taken in my life (my old school back in Pennsylvania didn’t have any AP classes). In that course, I fell in love with literature, and have remained in love with it for three decades.
I haven’t done enough reporting on tracking to know all the benefits and disadvantages of the policy. I know I am grateful for having been assigned to a high-level English course my senior year of high school, though not so grateful for the math experience.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.