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Tracking is a systemic way of sorting

Posted By: Wendy Gudalewicz on March 27, 2003
I am the principal who resigned from Gilroy High School. I resigned because I was asked to retrack our high school. The district was already tracking students k-12. Special programs were created exclusively for GATE(gifted and talented) students. The problem with the GATE progrma was not all students were tested for GATE. In fact, only those students who were recommended by a teacher or parent request were tested. Each year, approximately 250 students were tested, yet only 25 of those students were Hispanic. The student population in Gilroy is approximately 60% Hispanic. You can clearly see the problem.

I was asked to implement honors classes at the 9th and 10th grade levels and do away with our heterogenous program. Yet over the past four years we had met our API (State accountability index), increased our enrollment in Advanced Placement classes and simultaneously increased the pass rate. We went from having the lowest pass rate in our county to meeting the national average in two years. We double the number of students admitted to four year universities and increased the number of students meeting the University of California admissions requirements by 22%. I share all of that information because it really makes one wonder why? Why was I asked to track students once again? Why was I told that only GATE students should be allowed into the honors classes? Why was the decision made behind closed doors and why did the district only consult with the parents who were not Hispanic?

We were on our way to becoming an outstanding school and we were told to stop. We had programs in place for students reading and computing below grade. I offer the district an alternative plan that would allow for ability grouping during our tutorial/advisory time, but it was not about ability grouping. Tracking is not about who is being challenged and who isn't. Tracking is a systemic way of sorting people. The sad part about tracking is that we are assuming that some kids are smarter than others. If we look at the students who are placed in the lower tracks in schools across this country, we will find that the lower track classes are filled with students of color. so, is our system making the statement that White students are somehow smarter than students of color? Or is our system not designed to prepare all students equally? When we made the decision to believe that "every child has genius within" we were successful with all of our students.

Unfortunately tracking gives people the opportunity to stop believing. Denying students access to higher levels of curricula and instruction is criminal and telling students either directly or indirectly that they are not good enough is inhumane.
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 Tracking....good or bad? by Christina Rhoades on November 24, 2002
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