Although this topic doesn’t revolve around the main theme of Special Education, I believe it still relates to grouping students based on their abilities and developmental levels. The debate over tracking and leveling comes down to students having the possibility of feeling isolated into groups. Tom Loveless (1998) argues that there is not enough research to back the points regarding discrimination of students being labeled as underachievers. This method of teaching actually helps students and gets them to the next level, teaching them appropriate material that is not overwhelmingly challenging. Jeannie Oakes (1999) writes that tracking groups actually works to isolate students that harms students academic image. Students are assumed that have all the same learning capabilities based on their tracking group.
I can see the benefit of having students together, working on similar material that is appropriate for them. These groups should be regularly assessed and flexible enough for students to move in and out of different groups. There is always the fear of isolation and separation with our classes which is something to avoid. There is a right way to handle ability tracking without allowing those feelings of entitlement and poor self worth. “Grouping is a more flexible, less permanent arrangement of students that takes into account factors in addition to ability, such as motivation, interests, instructional levels, and student efforts.” (Renzulli and Reis, 1991) The difference between tracking and grouping should be distinguished so students do not feel like they are identified at a certain level. These groupings can be helpful and effective to challenge student thinking and learning.
Renzulli and Reis. (1991) The Reform Movement and the Quiet Crisis in Gifted Education. Gifted Child Quarterly. (35, 26-35)
Session 1 National Standards vs Individualization
An issue causing debate with educational leaders is the idea of a national curriculum and standards for all students. This would have every student learning the same material and assessed on the same standards. Robert Hutchins (1953) argues that the purpose of education is to improve people and create intellectual and moral citizens. If everyone had access to the same education with the same standards, there would be no disparity between groups and people would remain equal and free in society. Theodore Sizer (1999) argues that people are inherently different and schools should embrace these differences. This makes for more meaningful education and a place for students to perfect skills they are passionate about.
I can see the value of both Hutchins and Sizer in their thoughts of national standards and curriculum. I would side more with Sizer’s arguments even though it would mean more work on the teacher’s part and creative solutions to assessing student’s growth. If each student had their own rubric for grading it would be much more difficult to see where the class was achieving as a whole. This system truly favors the child though and prepares them for doing their part in society. “ . . . the insistent coaxing out of each child on his or her best terms of profoundly important intellectual habits and tools for enriching a democratic society . . . “ (Sizer, 1999, p 11) Each student has strengths and something special to offer that creates balance in our world. Kids need opportunities to discover their skills and examine how best they can influence their fellow citizens.
Sizer, T. R. (1999). No Two are Quite Alike. Educational Leadership (57: 1) p. 7-11.