For years our school has split our curriculum into three different tracks. We've called these tracks by various names and have adjusted the terminology from time to time. Currently we have three tracks: modified, regular, and honors. Students are placed into these tracks through scores on the placement / entrance exam. As of late I've begun to worry about the students in the low track.
Does tracking beyond honors and regular actually increase student learning? I see two sides to the situation. We are about to embark on a massive curriculum revamp as part of a switch to a trimester and 1:1 computing model. The debate around modified courses is about to began.
To give the context we track in four areas: math, science, social studies, and english. On one hand the observation is made that our staff at the modified level is not specifically trained to teach with different methods for students of lower academic ability. In a school of 850 each class has about 20 students tracked into the modified lane. A large percentage of these students have IEPs for various reasons but many do not. These students spend the entire day together moving from class to class with the exception of a few electives. Concern has been raised that by grouping our lower scoring students together for four years they continually reinforce to each other low expectations. Some argue that if we placed these students into regular classes they could manage to make it through if teachers were willing to differentiate their instruction to address the learning needs of these students. This group believes students would be better served by being placed in the regular lane.
On the other hand a number of our staff are opposed to eliminating the modified track with the concern that by placing these students into the regular lain the curriculum would be watered down. That teachers would be forced to teach to the needs of the lowest students. This group believes adamantly that eliminating tracking at this level would have a profound negative impact on the school as a whole.
My personal feelings are mixed. I'm curious as to our students thoughts. As soon as school kicks back up in the fall I plan to collect some student opinions on the matter. I can see some merit to the views of both camps. I'm curious as to how other Catholic high schools address these issue. Perhaps we are in the minority by tracking perhaps were not. Maybe it would be better to place these students in regular classes but assign them to a special study hall and delay the foreign language elective for a couple of years. I'm sure a number of schools have addressed these issues and have come up with a solution.
Some make the argument that Freshmen and Sophomore year should be untracked and admittance to the AP / Honors lane be determined only by academic performance during the Freshmen and Sophomore year.
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