Tracking students by academic performance creates a separate and unequal school system, according to the U.S. Education Department, reports Sonali Kohli in The Atlantic.
“Black students to be afforded equal access to advanced, higher-level learning opportunities,” the DoE’s Office of Civil Rights proclaimed in announcing an agreement with a New Jersey school district, South Orange Maplewood.
Proponents of tracking and of ability-grouping (a milder version that separates students within the same classroom based on ability) say that the practices allow students to learn at their own levels and prevent a difficult situation for teachers: large classes where children with a wide range of different needs and skill levels are mixed together. In many districts, the higher-level instruction in “gifted and talented” or advanced placement (AP) classes is what keeps wealthier families from entirely abandoning the public school system.
South Orange Maplewood in New Jersey will hire a consultant to examine why more whites than blacks are in advanced courses as part of a resolution agreement with the DoE.
In California’s Elk Grove Unified, 16 percent of students are black, but only 6 percent of gifted and talented (GATE) students are black. The district entered a DoE agreement to make GATE enrollment reflect enrollment.
Notice that Asian-American students are the most over-represented in GATE classes.