Why Schools Still Have Tracking

December 28, 1990

Report Outline
Special Focus


Tracking students into separate classes by ability perpetuates social and racial inequality without providing any educational benefit, according to recent educational research. Opponents of tracking are trying to convince schools that even high achievers will benefit from new teaching approaches designed to educate all students together. But many parents and educators remain skeptical that untracked schools will be sufficiently stimulating for the best students, and most public schools still use some form of tracking or ability grouping.

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Can schools realistically provide the same education to all children, despite huge differences in their grasp of the English language and in their attitudes toward school and work? If they don't provide the same education to all, are they consigning children of the poor and minority groups to the bottom rung of the social ladder forever? If they do mix children of varied abilities together, will they cut off the opportunities for high-level achievement by those children ready to excel?

These questions form the crux of the debate over tracking—separating students in classes according to their supposed abilities. The questions are not new. Like tracking itself, they have been in existence since universal public education became common, around the turn of the century. And the debate has always been held on both the social and the educational levels.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Gifted Education and Tracking
Mar. 28, 1997  Educating Gifted Students
Jul. 30, 1993  Intelligence Testing
Dec. 28, 1990  Why Schools Still Have Tracking
May 15, 1987  Magnet Schools
Sep. 14, 1979  Educating Gifted Children
Oct. 28, 1959  Education of Gifted Children
May 07, 1958  Elite vs. Mass Education
Nov. 23, 1955  Schooling for Fast and Slow Learners
Education Standards and Testing