Friday, March 11, 2011

Tracking Students

Giftedness and gifted education (GATE) is thought of as a positive educational model, differentiating instruction for our “advanced” students. I even once praised GATE programs, recalling my own experiences in school where I was bored by the “regular” education I was receiving, yearning for more “advancement”.

However, after doing some research, I came to a conclusion that begs to ask, “Why can’t all students receive a GATE-style education?”

Also, I began to find that GATE and other tracking programs further marginalize and label our children, and it is not by coincidence.

Tracking students is frowned upon in the current educational climate, yet we track all the time through “GATE” or “Special Ed”. We don’t call the groups the “smart kids” or “slow kids” as we once did, but the students know what track they are on and know if they’re “smart” or “slow”.

But who could argue that teaching “advanced” kids “advanced” lessons is a bad thing? Or of teaching a learning disabled child “at their level” being a bad thing? Differentiation is a key term in education today, and it can mean teaching each child to their interest but it can also mean teaching each child to their ability. But who decided their ability? And isn’t deciding their ability based on some arbitrary means such as a standardized test ludicrous? (But that is the point….) What if a “special ed” student wants more from their life than a “life skills track”? Labeling them for life puts them in a “dumbed down” educational program where yes, they will meet expectations- the slow kids will continue to be slow, and the GATE kids will continue to be advanced because that is what is expected of them, the system is built to support, almost force, that they stay confined to their label. Students internalize this and it creates contention among student groups, and if you wonder why the achievement gap exists, this is one of the reasons- we perpetuate it by tracking and labeling students and confining them to certain academic roles.

And this is all on purpose, with origins from Prussia, the IQ testing/standardized testing movement, and the eugenics movement.

One test to unite us all…one test to determine our future...and who to thank? One key person is Lewis Terman….

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