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Detracking: The Social Construction of Ability, Cultural Politics, and Resistance to Reform


by Jeannie Oakes, Amy Stuart Wells, Makeba Jones & Amanda Datnow — 1997

Structural changes necessary in detracking efforts challenge not only the technical dimensions of schooling, but also the normative and political dimensions. We argue that detracking reform confronts fundamental issues of power, control, and legitimacy that are played out in ideological struggles over the meaning of knowledge, intelligence, ability, and merit. This article presents results from a three-year longitudinal case study of ten racially and socioeconomically mixed secondary schools participating in detracking reform. We connect prevailing norms about race and social class that inform educators? parents? and students?conceptions of intelligence, ability, and giftedness with the local political context of detracking. By examining these ideological aspects of detracking we make a case for reexamining common presumptions that resistance to policies providing greater opportunities to low-income and minority children is driven by rational estimates of the learning costs and benefits associated with such reforms.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 98 Number 3, 1997, p. 482-510
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 9624, Date Accessed: 4/26/2017 11:24:40 PM

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About the Author
  • Jeannie Oakes
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author

  • Amy Wells
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author

  • Makeba Jones
    University of California, Los Angeles

  • Amanda Datnow
    Johns Hopkins University
    E-mail Author

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