Should Schools De-track?
A Debate about the Policy and Practice of Student Tracking
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Recent decades have been marked by heated debates about whether secondary schools should educate students of all achievement levels in Listen to Audio


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the same classroom or set up different "tracks" for high, average, and low achievers. Those who favor "tracking" believe it allows schools to more effectively educate each student, while critics argue that it promotes inequities and actually impedes classroom learning. Join us for a lively discussion featuring four prominent thinkers on this issue. School principal and influential researcher Carol Burris and University of Colorado professor Kevin Welner will make the case against tracking, explaining how schools can de-track effectively. The Brookings Institution's Tom Loveless and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Michael Petrilli will explore the pernicious effects of de-tracking--especially for high-achieving students.
Agenda
3:15 p.m.
Registration
3:30
Panelists:
CAROL BURRIS, South Side High School, New York
TOM LOVELESS, Brookings Institution
MICHAEL PETRILLI, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
KEVIN WELNER, University of Colorado at Boulder
Moderator:
FREDERICK M. HESS, AEI
5:00
Adjournment and Reception
Event Summary

WASHINGTON, MARCH 17, 2011--Experts clashed over whether tracking students by ability best serves a wide variety of needs in a vigorous debate Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute. Carol Burris shared her experience with de-tracking as principal of New York's South Side High School, where she narrowed the achievement gap for minority students by de-tracking classrooms. The University of Colorado's Kevin Welner echoed Burris's support for de-tracking, asserting that more should be demanded of teachers and schools, including "universal acceleration" for all students. From the other side of the debate, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute pushed back, arguing that policies that force schools to de-track are detrimental to efforts to customize schooling to better fit student needs. "The last thing we should do right now," Petrilli stated, "is criminalize tracking." For schools considering de-tracking, advised Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution, an examination of the empirical research on such efforts--and the scant evidence for scalable success--is critical. The panel found some common ground, agreeing that de-tracking can succeed for some schools, but that there are significant challenges to success on a large scale.

--OLIVIA MEEKS

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Should Schools De-track?
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