U.S. educators scorn “tracking” students into college-prep or vocational lanes, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week. We brag that our system offers second chances — and third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. Yet, our second-chance system ends up sorting students from first grade on, he writes.
Teachers know the low achievers will get another chance, so “they just keep passing them up the system, unchallenged and uneducated,” writes Tucker.
By high school, former Bluebirds are loading up on AP classes, ex-Robins are ambling toward unselective colleges and the Sparrows, if they haven’t dropped out, are headed nowhere.
Social class and parental education are more predictive of educational achievement in the U.S. than in most other industrialized countries, according to OECD data.
One alternative advocated by the Pathways to Prosperity network is to combine academics with work-based training that leads to skilled jobs. Some schools are collaborating with employers to provide pathways.
But many more are replacing tracking with covert tracking, writes Tucker.
How about 1) headed for selective colleges (at least a couple of AP courses with scores of 3 or better), 2) headed for open-admissions state four-year colleges and lower-tier private ones (at least an 8th grade reading level and some college credit), 3) headed for community college (same as #2), 4) headed for minimum-wage work (high school diploma/managed to show up for four years of high school), 5) headed for unemployment, poverty and prison (couldn’t read high school texts and so dropped out).
Vocational pathways are controversial unless they lead to college as well as careers. What’s not controversial is letting students pass classes labeled “college prep” with B’s and C’s, then go to community college or unselective universities, take remedial courses and drop out.