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 Tracking and Ability Grouping 
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Alright, I know we talked about this some in class and I was kind of confused between the two, but what do you guys think are some pros and cons of these two groups. I guess I think of tracking as being on a certain course, like we had college prep system where we took certain classes to prepare us for going to college. However, I think I am misunderstanding what tracking really is. I understand that ability group is basically putting those of the same ability to work together on a particular subject for a short period of time, and I understand that tracking is over a long period of time, but what is wrong with tracking? Help me understand!

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Chaise L. Swisher


Thu Feb 28, 2008 9:47 am
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Chaise I feel the same way. Thats how I view tracking, as a long term way to keep up with people. But I guess what the problem with that is, is that it turns into a labeling thing and that students can never move up and become something more than what they were labeled as in the beginning of school.

Thats just my take I may be totally wrong..anyone else have any other ideas?

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Melanie Klaus


Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:58 pm
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Like all good things, after a while they turn bad. I agree with you both that tracking in theory is a good idea and allows you to better address the needs of individual learners. So I guess a single event ability grouping can turn into long-term tracking. I think the reading groups example that Dr. Turner gave in class was a good way to understand the difference between the two.

Andy Ellis


Thu Feb 28, 2008 4:22 pm
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I kind of view this the same way. I always viewed tracking as what we did in high school and for us, it mostly depended on your plans after high school. I found it kind of helpful because I always knew exactly what classes I had to take but at the same time frustrating that I really had no choices in what else I wanted to take. We had very few AP classes offered because it was such a small school so I don't know where that would fall into this spectrum. I think that ability grouping is when you are divided in a class, short term based on how advanced you are on a certain topic. Then the teachers fail to re-evaluate those groups and it becomes tracking because students just remain in the same groups regardless of progress or lack there of.

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Julie Dean


Tue Mar 04, 2008 8:07 pm
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My high school also had tracking with college prep or college tech prep. Students who chose the college prep path would take classes that would help to prepare them for going to a four year university. Students who chose the college tech prep path would take classes designed for going to a community college or going to work directly after high school. I also liked this because it helped me know exactly what classes I should be taking. It also focuses more on the needs of the certain groups. I know some people view tracking as bad, but I liked it in high school.

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Mallory Beck


Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:01 pm
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I'm an elementary education major and in block one right now we are learning how to ability group our classrooms and the benefits of it. So to hear the opposite in this class confused me. I suppose there is just a certain time and place when ability grouping helps students and a time when it can be really detrimental to their learning.

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Keara Seiler


Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:35 pm
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I'm not really sure how I feel about ability grouping and tracking because I am not teaching a "tested" subject. Although I'm sure I will group my students during class time, it will probably be more of a "group with the people around you" type activity. I'm not sure how much I will deal with ability grouping, only that there are always students who are more willing and able to participate. I think that ability grouping may be a good thing for some students, but wouldn't grouping students NOT based on their ability be a better idea? The students who are more advanced in their understanding could help the students who are having problems, thus promoting leadership skills?
I'm just not sure how much I agree with ability grouping and tracking because I think the negatives outweigh the positives.

Meaghan Dunham
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Fri Mar 07, 2008 11:24 pm
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I see tracking as a way to measure schooling, and ability as a means to develop education. I know we talked about 'schooling' and 'education' some time ago, but I really feel that there is a difference between the functional literacy of schooling and the content literacy of critical thinking education. I mean no matter how you label it, the government and society want to have its future citizens to be able to read, write, and perform in society. Thats just functional literacy, and the only real reason to have tracking. Measuring ability on the other hand tends to lean more towards educational advancement. Just look at the phrase 'No Child Left Behind" it reeks of lower standards or even peer conformity.

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Robert W. Triplett


Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:47 am
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Robert,

While I respect your opinion on this, I also want to make sure that you, (and everyone) understands the terrain laid out in the readings on tracking and ability grouping. The readings reflect the research on educational outcomes and tracking.

We know that the students who are in the lower tracks do less well under tracking, and that the top 3% or so only do better if they are actually accelerated through their school work - not only "enriched" with all the goodies like field trips and the best teachers.

So, there are profound social justice issues for us as teachers as well as what we often think of as issues of educational advancement.

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Gayle Turner


Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:31 am
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I am in the same situation as Keara. It's confusing to be in two different classes that have two different opinons on the same subject. What I'm taking from it though is that ability grouping is short term and in some cases, such as reading instruction can be necessary to teach students of different levels. One of my worries though is that ability grouping in my classroom would eventually turn into tracking.

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Megan Snyder


Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:14 pm
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I'm glad everyone is clearing it up because I felt pretty confused as well last time we talked about it. Andy and Gale's post were very helpful to me. I feel that with special education I may be faced with tracking more than ability grouping. Which is unfortunate, but there are ways to get around the way students are grouped.

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Elizabeth Griffin


Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:03 pm
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I have also been confused about these two terms. I think ability grouping can be good if it is used for the short term. It is misused when students are placed in an ability group for the long term. I think that keeping these students in the groups for the long term turns into tracking.

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Allyson Chambers


Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:27 pm
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So many things in education seem start out as a good idea and then go sour. Nothing should ever be used to keep students in the low track down. Any system needs to have flexibility otherwise it won't work. That's the main problem I see in NCLB. Ability grouping is something that could be a decision faced in a large band program. We've talked about this before in our music classes. The answer depends on the students and the goals of the teacher. But nothing like this should ever be permanent.

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Jessica DuBose


Thu May 01, 2008 11:34 pm
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