Separation of Students



Tracking, also known as student ability grouping, is a form of grading that educators have used to divide up school children based on their academic abilities. According to each state and school district in the United States, students should have the opportunity to be separated by ability so that they can have the opportunity to learn based on their academic level. The way a district splits up their students varies from state to state and even within the state.

The purpose behind tracking is to give students with advanced academic ability the option to be separated from others so that they can learn at an advanced pace. Giving them the opportunity to work on advanced work and not have to stay at the pace of lower ability students can help avoid backtracking or plateaus related to their learning. Tracking also gives low ability students the choice to be separated from other students so that they have the opportunity to receive additional assistance if needed. This also gives these students the ability to go over concepts at their own pace.

One concern about tracking is that it separates kids too much and they don’t have the opportunity to grow socially as well as academically. When kids start to take advanced classes in high school they are separated from their peers and miss out on making connections with kids their age. Also, studies have found that tracking can discourage low ability students because they see themselves as inferior and they tend to not be as motivated to do their work due to that feeling. Low ability students tend to work better together in groups of both high and low ability students because the high ability students motivate them. Working in mixed groups tends to negatively affect higher ability level students as they feel like they are not able to move at the pace that they wish to. Students need to be seperated in order for both groups to have the opportunity to grow at the rate they wish to. The question that still needs to be answered is how.

At Millicoma Middle School, fourth graders participate in March to Math and Walk to Read programs. What happens is that students are separated into math and reading groups based on their academic levels. However, the students don’t know which academic level they are in since the groups are named after colors. This gives students the opportunity to grow at their own pace while not having any pressure on them because they feel slow or dumb. Students can move to a different group if they show improvement from the stage they are currently at. The students then go back to their regular classrooms. This system works great in younger grades because all students get the opportunity to go at their own pace. As students get older, this system doesn’t work as well because students are now switching classes on a regular basis.

When students enter high school they are given the opportunity to take advanced classes. This may be hard on younger students. If an 8th grader is taking classes where the majority of their classmates are sophomores, this may be more difficult socially, especially if they don’t have any peers of the same age in the class. If a student has peers of their own age with them, then they will feel more comfortable. Advanced courses are necessary so that students have the opportunity to push themselves in school and not feel bored in class.

Tracking is a necessary evil. It helps students to be able to go at a pace that they want but it also separates students socially. Each school district will go about it in a way that is best for them and it will look different for each one. However, they should always keep in mind that whatever they do should have the kids in mind and should benefit the kids. If a system that a school district has in place it not benefiting the students, then changes need to be made. Once changes are made so that the students are now advancing at a pace that is right for them, then the system is doing its job.