Eric.ed.gov – To Track or Not to Track?

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Background: This paper was written for a graduate level action research course at Muskingum University, located in New Concord, OH. Purpose: The purpose of this research was to determine which method of instruction best serves ALL high school students. Is it more advantageous to track (“ability group”) students or not to track students in high school core classes (Math, Science, History, and English)? Setting: This study was conducted during the 2009-2010 school year. All subjects involved in this research are associated with Caldwell High School, located in Caldwell, OH. Caldwell is a small rural town located in Southeastern Ohio, which is part of the Appalachian region. The high school currently has approximately 180 students in attendance and 11 educators teaching the four core subject areas. Study Sample: There were 11 Caldwell High School teachers asked to participate in an open-ended survey that asked which of the two methods of instruction the participants believe provides the best education for ALL students: tracking students by ability or not tracking students by ability. The areas of specialty of these teachers breakdown into the following: 3 science, 2 English, 2 History, 2 Math, and 2 Intervention Specialists. Out of the 11 teachers that were asked to participant, 7 completed surveys. Two of the district’s administrators also participated in the survey for a total of 9 participants. Intervention: N/A. Research Design: Correlational. Control or Comparison Condition: N/A. Data Collection and Analysis: Nine participants completed surveys describing their experiences and expressing their opinions on the effectiveness of ability grouping students versus not ability grouping students. Data from 1999-2009 concerning years in which core subjects were tracked and not tracked into general and college prep tracks was collected from the guidance office from Caldwell High School. State standardized test scores and State Report Card rating from the last 10 years were obtained from the Ohio Department of Education website. All data was retrieved and aggregated in attempt to show correlations between standardized test performance and method of instruction at Caldwell High School. Findings: Literature Review: Recent evidence-based research backs up the non-tracking approach to education. Surveys: The results of the survey showed a majority of staff in favor of tracking students by ability into college prep and general tracks, yet still requiring differentiation of instruction in those classes. Archival Data: I was unable to support either method of instruction with the data collected from Caldwell High School. None of the data showed any strong correlations to support either the tracking or de-tracking approach. Conclusion: There are too many variables, such as different measures of proficiency, variation in number of years tested for proficiency, teacher turn-over rates, demographics, student abilities, etc. Student performance is affected by more than just the method of instruction. I feel that the only way to be inviting to all students, is to offer the same opportunities to everyone and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of a wide range of learners and abilities. It seems that the problem lies in the fact that most teachers do not know how to effectively differentiate instruction, do not feel that they have the time required, and/or are unable to collaborate with others, which is another essential part in making these practices work. Citation: Hesson, H. (2010). To track or not to track? ERIC. (Contains 3 tables.)

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Troels Gannerup Christensen

Jeg er ansat som adjunkt hos Læreruddannelsen i Jelling, hvor jeg underviser i matematik, specialiseringsmodulet teknologiforståelse, praktik m.m. Jeg har tidligere været ansat som pædagogisk konsulent i matematik og tysk hos UCL ved Center for Undervisningsmidler (CFU) i Vejle og lærer i udskolingen (7.-9. klasse) på Lyshøjskolen i Kolding. Jeg er ejer af og driver bl.a. hjemmesiderne www.lærklokken.dk og www.iundervisning.dk, ggbkursus.dk og er tidligere fagredaktør på matematik på emu.dk. Jeg går ind for, at læring skal være let tilgængelig og i størst mulig omfang gratis at benytte.

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