Tracking In Schools Is Not The Problem

Tracking In Schools Is Not The Problem, Because Education Is A Personal Choice

"So, is education an individual pursuit? Or a group pursuit?" my professor asked the class.
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Tracking, according to edweek.org, is the term used to group students together based on performance in the classroom.

Most high schools follow this sort of set up. Whether it's with Honors, AP, IB, or A and B classes, these are all examples of tracking.

In my particular high school, we had AP, i.e advanced placement, Honors, and A and B tracks for math classes. Classes were considered slightly below honors and B were considered average. Anyone could take AP and Honors classes with teacher signatures and evaluations.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with all of this. Well, I am now a sophomore in high school at Temple. I am taking A Gen Ed called Kids in Crisis.

Yesterday, we were talking about a recent reading he had done which covered tracking. The main focus was tracking in English and Math classes, and how minorities and lower-income students' educations were affected by it.

The author made valid points about how higher-tracked classes were much more involved. The curriculum typically covers things like critical thinking, analyzing and problem-solving.

Lower-tracked classes were the opposite. Students reported learning basic skills such as relationships with people, basic math, and job applications.

On this topic yesterday, I couldn't help but reflect back to my high school years. No school is perfect, but I felt that the way my high school went about tracking was fair.

No one was omitted from being in a "better" learning environment. So I raised my hand and, bravely, voiced my opinion (which scares me).

"...the kids who didn't care were in a separate environment than those who did," I said.

I felt everyone's glares. For one, I wasn't sure why everyone cared so much. But I guess I understand since my blood was boiling, too.

"So, is education an individual pursuit? Or a group pursuit?" my professor asked the class.

HUH? was the only thing I could say.

People make choices every single day of their life. People choose to wake up earlier to eat breakfast before class to focus better. People choose to smoke a blunt rather than work on their essays. These things are literal choices.

I understand some people suffer financially. And my heart goes out to them. But I just can't wrap my head around the fact that education is anything short of an individual choice.

For example, I spent my high school years caring about certain classes more than others. I took AP Language Arts Literacy, and attended every class and submitted everything on time.

On the other hand, I took Calculus A. I was still above average, but I can guarantee I didn't put in as much work for my Calc assignments as I did for my English class.

And that was my personal choice.

So, I am aware not everyone is going to agree with me. I do agree that teachers can play a vital role in student success. But I also believe it is up to the individual to take those tools and implement them.

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything
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I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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Sometimes "Out With The Old In With The New" Isn't the Best thing

We can't lose touch of the simpler things in life

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When I think about how much has changed and how much my world has developed since I was little, I get mind boggled realizing how different things are. I work at a restaurant in the city that I grew up in and I see famillies come and go for dinner every night. They all seem the same. The parents will walk in, check in with the hostesses and wait to be seated. If they're asked to wait, the kids sit by their parents sides playing on phones that are probably too young to have. I understand that waiting can get tedious and boring. By the time that they would sit down, I'd imagine that they would put down the devices and engage in some good old fashion conversation. I was wrong. It made me sad to see kids eating dinners with their families with zero interaction. When I was younger, I enjoyed the quality conversations I would have with my family when we got breaks from our all very hectic schedules. It's amazing how much technology has advanced, but sometimes, I believe that we might rely on it too much.

Seems like more and more things are becoming industrialized. Those "mom and pop" shops are closing down due to corporate companies buying the land. I have enough Walmart and Targets in a ten minute radius from me. Sure, places like these carry necessities are important, but when local Nurseries are closed down in order to build a new gas station, it just becomes sad. As things progress more, the more we lose touch of our roots. The places that make home special and different. The moments we have as a kid that don't involve a light on our face. Modernism is a powerful and amazing thing but we need to take a step back and reevaluate what we hold closest to us.

All in all, as we continue to develop, I will continue to advocate for the simpler moments and the simpler times. I don't think my kids will need iPhones right out of elementary school, I'll continue to visit the same hometown shops and give them as much business as possible, I'll always ask if he kids want coloring sheets at the dinner table. Although these small things might not matter in our everyday new world, they matter to me. I will always try to have so much fun that I forget to document things with my phone. The laughter and memories without the technology present. Those are the moments worth remembering.

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