Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Teach 180: Thoughts about Tracking in Math (Day 52)

Today at our department meeting we had a discussion about pre-requisites for certain courses, specifically Honors courses.  To remain in the Honors track, students need to maintain a B+ grade in the prior course.  Even with a grade that high, there are students who struggle when they are in Geometry Honors.  To lower the grade to a B would mean that we would have more students struggling in that course.  Alternatively, I would be forced to slow the pace of the course down for those students.  Although you may think that teaching material at a pace that is appropriate for the weakest student in the class is a good idea, it actually does a disservice to those students who catch onto concepts easily.  They become bored. Or they get into trouble. Or they do what my best friend and I did in fifth and sixth grade - complete their math work quickly so they can continue to silently read their favorite book.  To remove all Honors math courses completely or lower our current standards would be a mistake.  I don't have research or data to back my claim, but I do have twenty-five years of experience at six different schools in four different states and my experiences with tracking was the same at each school.  It was necessary to help those students who were struggling and important to keep top students challenged.

In my next blog, I'll critique "What Tracking Is and How to Start Dismantling It".  It is an article I found while composing this blog entry and I am curious as to what it says.  Plus I am interested in the short film by Jo Boaler called Rethinking GiftednessHer film is not so much about tracking, but more about labeling kids and the damage that can come with a label.  We wouldn't think labeling a student with a learning disability would be negative. So, why is "gifted" a negative label to use?

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