Reflection of Foundations of Education

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Social Class, Race, and School Achievement

March 25th, 2012

Do you think tracking is a valid method for enhancing student performance? Or do you think it is a mechanism for perpetuating inequality of opportunity based on social class, race, or sex?

I think tracking is a valid method for enhancing student performance. It recognizes the importance of different learning abilities and allows teachers to focus their instruction to each level of learning. It also keeps all students challenged and increases teaching efficiency and students’ self-esteem.

With homogeneous grouping, teachers are able to focus their lessons to the students’ educational needs. (Duflo, Dupas & Kremer, 2009). They can vary the curriculum so that it challenges the students at their level of learning at the proper pace (Duflo, Dupas & Kremer, 2009).  Therefore, fast, average, and slower learners are able to receive instruction that is modified to meet their levels of learning. Mixed-ability classes often thwart student progress for students of all learning abilities (Woolfolk, 2010). For example, students in mixed-ability algebra courses don’t learn as much as students in homogeneous classes, no matter what ability level they may be (Woolfolk, 2010).

It is unfair for the advanced students to be placed in heterogeneous classes because they may become uninterested and disheartened by the slower pace of the class, in addition to being held back by the slower learners (Ornstein, Levine & Gutek, 2011, pg 356).If a group of students are not performing at the necessary level within the class, a teacher will often remediate skills from previous grades. Remediation is great for the students that need it, but it can be very detrimental to the students who maybe faster learners (Ornstein, Levine & Gutek, 2011, pg 356). Remediation bores faster learners and this can lead to behavioral problems along with disinterest in school. Homogeneous classes also allow advanced students to be challenged in school and give them an opportunity to see what they are fully capable of learning.

Homogeneous classes increase students’ self-esteem and promote a positive environment for group work. Students in heterogeneous classes compare themselves to other students in the class who may be faster or slower learners (Loveless,1999a). Students that may be fast learners might get an increase in self-esteem, but students who are slower learners may feel inferior resulting in lower self-esteem. Students in homogeneous classes compare themselves to other students who are at a similar level and ability (Loveless, 1999b). This can help eliminate student fear that they might sound dumb if they ask a question or give an incorrect answer. Thus, homogeneous classes encourage student success and higher self-esteem (Loveless, 1999b).In addition, students are able to collaborate more effectively because they are of similar learning abilities.  This allows students to have healthy rivalries that encourage each other to come up with the best ideas, unlike heterogeneous grouping which can result in one or two group members contributing most of the ideas and work, while others may contribute little or nothing to the group (Ornstein, Levine & Gutek, 2011, pg 356).

Homogeneous grouping also makes it easier and more efficient for teachers to teach their classes (George, 1988). Teachers only have to create lesson plans for students that are at similar learning levels. In heterogeneous classes, teachers must try to create lessons that all types of learners can grasp. This situation can be stressful for teachers because typically one or more types of learners may be slighted and this may reflect back on the teacher’s ability to teach. Homogeneous grouping eliminates a lot of stress for teachers because they only have to tailor their lessons to one group of students who may be the slow, average, or the advanced learners. It gives teachers the ability to meet a particular group of students’ instructional needs more accurately (George, 1988).It also allows teachers to teach classes and work with the students that they like teaching and are more apt to teach, which can also help alleviate teacher stress (Ornstein, Levine & Gutek, 2011, pg 356).

It is important for schools to recognize various learning styles and abilities, because parents will remove their child from a school, if they feel that their child is not receiving a good education. In a phenomenon called “bright flight”, parents will remove or threaten to remove their children from a school if advanced or honors courses are no longer offered (Loveless, 1999a). They believe that their children should be challenged within the courses they take at school (Loveless, 1999a). Parents of students who are slower learners will also remove their children from a school if they feel their child is not receiving the adequate amount of help or attention. Remedial classes provide these students with the extra amount of help they need in order to succeed.

Contrary to popular belief, homogeneous grouping can be very beneficial when used correctly in our educational system. It recognizes different learning abilities and instruction focused on a student’s particular ability level in order to have a better chance to succeed. Homogeneous grouping insures that students will be more challenged within their appropriate ability levels and that students gain self-esteem, theoretically speaking. Teachers should also be able to create more efficient classes and have less work and strain placed on them because they only have to cater to one ability level in each class.

Also one of my sources gives a great argument in favor for homogeneous grouping that presents some interesting information about it.

                                                    

                                                                                       References

Duflo, E., Dupas, P., & Kremer, M. (2009). Can tracking improve learning?. Education Next, 9(3), Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/tracking-improve-learning/

 George, P. (1988). what’s the truth about tracking and ability grouping really??? Teacher Education Resources.

 Loveless, T. (1999a). Will tracking reform promote social equity?. Educational Leadership, 56(7), 28-32. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el199904_loveless.pdf

Loveless, T. (1999b). The tracking wars: state reform meets school policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute

 Ornstein, A., Levine, D., & Gutek, G. (2011). Foundations of education. (11 ed., p. 356). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Image received from: http://www.englishhomestays.co.uk/job_shadowing.php

One Response to “Social Class, Race, and School Achievement”

  1. hnystrom says:

    You make some good points about how tracking can be beneficial for advanced students and the efficiency it creates for teachers. The schools I went to used tracking, and I used to wonder if the teachers thought we didn’t notice. For students there weren’t different tracks there were the ‘dumb’ kids and the ‘smart’ kids and it was pretty obvious. Both ended up carrying a stigma that I never associated as being positive. Everyone has a different experience; however, I have yet to see tracking implemented in a truly effective way for students that doesn’t cause these social issues.

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