Response to last week’s conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog had a range of reactions to the question raised last week whether schools ought to track students by abilities, or de-track classes and mix abilities within classes. Here is a sampling of comments:

Randall: One of my children always scores 100 on absolutely everything he does. That is a problem, because he is not being challenged. He finishes his work quickly and is bored. The teacher spends her time trying to bring the lower-achieving kids up to my son's level. It sure isn't right for my son. We pay as much or more for his education than others in the school, yet we get the least benefit. The teacher boasts that my child helps other children in at least one subject. That shouldn't happen. I send my child to school to learn, not to do the teacher's job.

Bu2: If you don't track, you probably lose all the good students to other districts or private schools, not just some of them. If you do track, you lose the middle to other districts or private schools and the gulf gets wider. That appears to me to be happening in DeKalb, which does track with magnet, gifted and IB-type programs.

A Mom: I don't believe that all kids rise to the challenge. I wish they would. I wish their parents would support the schools more. What I see, among far too many kids, is a lack of effort necessary to succeed.

Simmerdown: Mixed abilities in class does work as long as you teach to the top. I have witnessed it myself. If the plan is to teach to the middle, then nope — not gonna happen. The high achievers will either slack off or become disinterested.

ScienceTeacher: One problem with tracking is that historically, the weaker students have been basically "warehoused," often with the weakest teachers. Especially in the lower grades, there should be smaller classes and lots of remediation for students who are behind.

Sara: In my high school, we did have tracking, but we were allowed to choose our own track. Upon entering as freshmen, we could choose from college prep, general, business/secretarial and vocation/mechanics. We were also allowed to change tracks. I was an average student on the college prep track. No one tried to force me down a track because I wasn't a top performer. I really don't understand why tracking needs to be so rigid.

3schoolkids: Tracking? No, that is an industrial term, and our kids are not products.

User77: Over the years, it has seemed to me that the idea that all kids will go to college is leaving a lot of kids behind. Not all kids have the desire or skill to take AP Calculus. We should be partnering more with schools like Gwinnett Tech to help kids who are more interested in vocational fields learn their options and what they need to succeed. If we un-track, we set a defacto track that all kids must be on. The kids that don't fit disengage completely. Secondly, completely de-tracking would be a real disservice to some kids. In Gwinnett, students are now tracked fairly early in math. Students can now take Georgia Tech calculus early as their junior year. Not everyone is capable, or willing, to do that. We should not discourage or eliminate this possibility for those who can.