One of the biggest concerns of parents for the new school year is this: What kind of kids are in my child’s classroom? The answer to this question is particularly difficult for parents of average students, the most forgotten group today.
All parents want their children to be with the nice kids, the bright and well-behaved types who will pull classes up, rather than with kids who will drag them down. In big, economically and ethnically diverse high schools such as mine, T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va., where there is enormous variation in academic abilities, average kids run the risk of ending up in one of two tracks: in classes full of students with weak skills and lousy attitudes or in so-called advanced courses where they find themselves in over their heads.
A major part of the problem is the anti-tracking movement, which began in the mid-1980s. Since then, tracking has become to education what abortion and gay marriage are to politics — an incendiary topic with fanatics on both sides. So-called progressive teachers and administrators, whose mantra is “every child can learn,” want to do away with tracking.
Good teachers, and fancy sounding course labels such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, are supposed to raise the level of all students no matter how varied their skills or abilities. In truth, social engineering — mixing of races and ethnic groups in classes — is what many administrators really prize, while giving lip service to academic rigor.
On the other end of the tracking wars are fanatical parents — usually white, in my experience — who think their kids are geniuses, who must be protected from less talented kids and who are entitled to every advantage and resource the school system has to offer.
Joanne has more.