Ability grouping of students is coming under fire once again (“It’s The Lower Ability Students Who Lose Out Through Streaming,” Forbes, Mar. 22). The latest charge is that low-ability students are being shortchanged because their teachers adhere to a narrower curriculum and inferior instruction. As a result, students fall behind by one or two months a year on average compared with students of similar levels of attainment in mixed ability classes.
But what would be the effect on other students if low-ability students were not tracked? Don’t the former have the right to curriculum and instruction geared to their needs and interests? What about the effect on teachers who would be saddled with preparing different lessons during the same class period?
I had several remedial English classes during the 28 years that I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I was far more effective with them than I was when they were included in regular classes. I say that because I was able to design lessons specifically in line with their capabilities. There are few things more demoralizing than to see students struggling and failing. They tend to be those who drop out of school.
I see nothing wrong with placing students in classes in line with their needs and interests. After all, don’t educators constantly talk about the importance of doing precisely that? Tracking is a strategy that serves them well.
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