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I'm assuming from most class discussions, that a majority of you were in the high level tracks in high school. Our reading says there is no evidence that students in the high tracks had higher overall achievement. Do you think programs such as Academically Gifted Programs and Duke TIP are beneficial or only lead to inequality? What are some of your personal experiences from high school? Did tracking magnify people's differences or was it helpful in some way?

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Heather Lynn Rulifson


Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:51 pm
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I was in a "high track" in High School and I believe that it was beneficial to me, but I also think that it did lead to inequality. My teachers were always very helpful and were really engaged in the class and would always find ways of explaining certain topics in different ways so that everyone would be able to learn. I also observed some classes, while I was in teacher cadet, where the teacher basically did not really care all that much. It was a "lower" class and the students didn't care either. I just think that they knew that the teacher didn't care so they decided that they shouldn't either. I really enjoyed my classes and was grateful that my teachers were really involved with us, because it really did help me learn.

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Kelly York


Tue Oct 07, 2008 6:12 pm
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I was in the high level tracks in high school. I feel like the reading only holds true if the teachers instruct their classes with equal standards. If teachers would teach lower level classes with the same amount of resources and enthusiasm as they taught upper level classes, then there probably would not be a huge divide in achievement. Programs such as AP are beneficial to those participating, but it does lead to inequality. Just because someone did not pass a "qualifying entrance exam" to become a part of honors or AP does not mean they are necessarily not smart enough. It gives others an unfair advantage. In high school, the stress and competition of AP classes made me miserable. I would much have rather been in a regular classroom, learning normal, regular things. Or maybe, rather, I would have been in the same classroom, just without the stress of the label: "honors or AP." I think if we would all have been in the same classes, it would have promoted diversity and broader discussions. Much more could have been learned. Tracking did magnify people's differences. For example, I was friends mainly with people in the AP and honors track. Although I had friends outside of it, they often referred to me as "the smart one" or "the suck up." I really got tired of hearing that, and I really wished that I could just be like them.

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Heather Holland Crow


Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:35 pm
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I was in a high track in high school, and I was part of and have since worked for Duke TIP. Being in the high track I felt like was something that I deserved as part of my education. It made me stretch my mind, think critically about things, and was often harder than the regular classes which I would have easily breezed through. That is not to say that the students in the regular classes couldn't handle what we were doing, and at my high school they were given ample opportunity to do so, as students were more often than not encouraged to step outside of their comfort zone and try something harder even if it was just for one semester.

Until I worked with Duke TIP I had only experienced it as a middle schooler and never participated in the summer enrichment. Duke TIP is something that allows students who often feel ostracized in their regular school setting because of their intelligence to experience what it's like to socialize with other people like them. I had students in my class this summer who were so excited to be back with their TIP classmates that they were physically sick when it was time to go for them to go home.

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Mandi McGaha


Wed Oct 08, 2008 10:31 am
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At my high school, there were very few AP classes that were offered and each class had the same people in it. Because our school was so small we had split honors and regular classes. My senior English class was like this and I was one of four honors in that class. It was interesting to see that the extra work we had to do was more critical thinking, like writing papers about why people did something and relate it to something else, where the regular students would just write papers that stated facts. The rest of the class knew we were the honors and we frequently made fun of, especially if we would raise our hand and give an answer and it was wrong, the whole class would laugh or make comments like I though you were smart. I believe tracking help me, but the people who were not in the high track; I don’t really know how it helped them much.

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Tracy Gardo


Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:25 am
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I was also in the "high track" or "college prep" track in high school. I was in honors tract because I was in AG in middle school, and then I went on to take a lot of AP classes. From my personal experience, I think that Academically Gifted Programs are extremely beneficial. If I wouldn't have been in those honors and AP classes, I would have been the kid sitting there bored out of my mind because the work was so easy and the teacher was less then good at what she/he was teaching. I'm really grateful that my high school had the amount of AP classes that it did, because it gave me the opportunity to get college credit for courses that I would have had to take it college. The AP courses also helped me a lot in preparing me for college, with the difficulty level and the work load.

I think that tracking only magnifies peoples differences. As we have been talking about in class, the students in the AP classes are usually of a higher economic status and have the same family backgrounds. So not only is tracking separating who is "smart" and who is not, it's also separating people by social class, which is something that we have been talking about avoiding. In my experience (at my high school), all of the lower economic status students were in the regular and tech classes (or they went to the Career Center). People at my high school just knew who the "rich" and "poor" and "dumb" and "smart" people were. And I believe that tracking has a lot to do with that.

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Paige Kathleen Colbath


Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:23 pm
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I was also in the "high track" or "college prep" track in high school. I was in honors tract because I was in AG in middle school, and then I went on to take a lot of AP classes. From my personal experience, I think that Academically Gifted Programs are extremely beneficial. If I wouldn't have been in those honors and AP classes, I would have been the kid sitting there bored out of my mind because the work was so easy and the teacher was less then good at what she/he was teaching. I'm really grateful that my high school had the amount of AP classes that it did, because it gave me the opportunity to get college credit for courses that I would have had to take it college. The AP courses also helped me a lot in preparing me for college, with the difficulty level and the work load.

I think that tracking only magnifies peoples differences. As we have been talking about in class, the students in the AP classes are usually of a higher economic status and have the same family backgrounds. So not only is tracking separating who is "smart" and who is not, it's also separating people by social class, which is something that we have been talking about avoiding. In my experience (at my high school), all of the lower economic status students were in the regular and tech classes (or they went to the Career Center). People at my high school just knew who the "rich" and "poor" and "dumb" and "smart" people were. And I believe that tracking has a lot to do with that.

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Paige Kathleen Colbath


Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:24 pm
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I have a friend, and for these purposes I will call him Matt. Matt and I attended high school together. At my school there was much diversity with economic status, social status, and ethnicity. While I was in high school, I never thought that anyone else's high school was any different than mine because that was my experience and knowledge at the time.
A couple of weeks ago I went on a road trip, back home, with Matt. On the way back I asked him if coming from a struggling financial background hurt him in school. At first he said no, but then he told me more. Matt and I took AP classes together, but you could tell, some days, by the clothes that he wore that he was not just like everyone else in the classroom. He was, and still is intelligent, but he came from a different "place." Matt told me that one of the vice-principals at our school tried to encourage him not to take AP English. I think she believed it would be a struggle for him, and she wanted it to be easier for Matt to get by. This vice-principal was not a bad woman, but she often seemed to be friends with the minority students. She sometimes let it slide when they got into trouble. She expected little from them, and they, the minority students, generally liked her for it. If Matt had actually listened to her, and taken the easier way out he might not be attending ASU today.
I think we should expect a great many things from our students, and rarely if ever let them off the hook. With every action there is a reaction.

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Lianna Denise Beard


Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:27 pm
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I was also in the "college prep" track in highschool. All throughout middle school and high school i was in AG classes, honors classes, and some AP classes. I think that they were beneficial to me in certain ways, but you could tell that the teachers wanted to spend more time talking to and teaching us than the regular students. Not every teacher was this way but alot of them were, especially if you were in an AP class. There was some diversity in those classes but most of the time it was the same students taking all the same type of classes. The work that we did in the classes and the discussions were great. Being in the smart classes though did lead people to think that you could do all the work or you were smart and when you got a bad grade they picked with you about it. Its like the kids in the other tracks did not like you because you were considered smarter and a better person, but that is completely untrue.

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Kristen P. Helton


Wed Oct 08, 2008 8:11 pm
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I also, was in a high track in my school. However, I think my education differed from others in a high track because I went to private school that was primarily a college prep school. We had ability grouping, per say, but it wasn't as separated as other schools because our school was smaller, and we still had classes with those in the "lower" track. Because of this different dynamic ability grouping worked, because equal funding was given to both programs. Also, the great teachers were equally spread among both tracks. In fact, my AP english teacher also taught regular senior english and regular freshman english. My school didn't merely point the more successful teaches in the AP direction, but they all taught various levels of their subject matter. Also, because of the size of our school, our groups weren't really segregated. Everyone benefited and everyone was in contact with everyone else. I know that I personally did do a lot better being in the higher track and it was very beneficial to me.

I realize that the majority of schools cannot function in this way, due to size, funding, and the laws governing public schools. So, if that is the case, i am not in favor of ability grouping. In these settings, ability grouping does not have a positive impact on students because the proper funds can't be given and the great teachers are shifted to the higher achieving students. In this setting, I think they should be kept together. I agree that it does take more creative effort on the part of the teacher, but I think it is well worth the effort.

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Anna F. Gay


Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:11 pm
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During the class disscussions on Tuesday I found it interesting that so many of us had to pick our tracks at such an early age. I do understand that in today's society it is almost immpossible to wait until a year into college to decide your future. Atleast, if you want to be done in four years! Therefore, I understand why high schools are trying to get us thinking about this early on by choosing a certain academic track. Although, the problem lies in the fact there is not a system set up for easily changing tracks. I believe, if we are asking kids to make a desicion about there future during a time when they are in the midst of truely discovering themseleves, then there need to be oppurtunity for change. Most students are going to make a decision about which track to join based on parental background. For example, I picked college prep because my parents went to college, so I assumed it required for me to do the same. Likewise, if a person comes from a low income family and know they have no other choice but to get a blue collar job like their parents then they will pick the work prep route (dont't know the exact name for it!). Once the kid that picked this track realizes later on that he may want to try going to college it is almost to late. He would have to retake several classes, putting him behind. This extra hurdle most likely will cause him to just not change tracks and stick with what he initailly picked, the work prep track. In conclusion, I think it is important that we do some revision to this system if we want to offer every student equal oppurtunity. If we continue with this system the same students will keep filtering in to the same tracks no matter ther actual ability level.

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katielewis


Thu Oct 09, 2008 8:53 am
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It's good to hear all your comments.

I tested into AG in Elementary School. While I considered myself smart, I didn't view myself better than a few of my friends who didn't test into the program. I was still in classes with them and could associate with these kids. Looking back on it though, the people who didn't make the cut were children from lower income families. You knew because they way they dressed, carried themselves, their mannerisms, etc. Their parents were very involved in PTA and other school events. The standard or lower track were somewhat ethnically diverse. However, all but 1 or 2 kids in the AG program were white and came from well-to-do families. While I strongly believed that I benefited from the program, (I wasn't bored. I was challenged.), I do feel as though it divided us some among differences in terms of socio-economic status and race. AG students felt more privileged because once a week we got to "skip" class and take a bus to a middle school. We had more freedom and had more hands on activities than lectures (such as playing with goo and white lab rats and building model houses and scale balances). We even had little perks like using the microwave, eating in booths rather than tables, and being treated like older, responsible young adults. On the other hand, standard students spent the same typical day in the classroom, and I don't feel as though they were benefited or had an opportunity for higher level thinking. Some of my friends could have performed just as well if given the opportunity. I was in the program because of one little test. Maybe they were bright but just poor test takers or barely missed the chance by one or two points.

High school was slightly different. While we chose college prep or a technical track, you still had flexibility to take standard, honors, or AP. I took honor and AP in areas I excelled in such as English and Spanish and took standard classes in areas that were challenging for me such as history. I defiantly noticed a difference in teacher's and student's attitudes. Most of the honors classes were dedicated white, upper income students. The lower classes was a mix of races of students who cared and worked hard and those who didn't and dropped out, did drugs, or had kids. You knew the boundaries. It was ok to cross them, but most didn't. Standard classes were no stretch for me. The teachers taught rote memorization. You did assignments from the back of your book at the end of each chapter and copied vocabulary words without applying them. My geography teacher didn't want to be there. He was simply teaching because he wanted to coach at the school. He spent most of class time either in the bathroom or with his team.

While I feel I benefited from programs like TIP and AG, I feel for the kids who had lousy teachers. I think all children should be taught with upper level thinking. You should be allowed to retest and move up. The low shouldn't have to remain low, and the upper level students shouldn't prosper at their despair.

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Heather Lynn Rulifson


Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:32 pm
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I was in the AIG, honors, and AP category all through school. In my school system I feel like these "higher-level" groups are separated both in and out of school from the "lower-level" groups. If you weren't in AIG in elementary school, then it was about 99% guaranteed that you would not be in AIG in middle school. If no AIG in middle school then that eventually meant no honors in high school. When I went to high school I had to choose which track I wanted to do, and of course I chose the university college prep. All of my classes were basically mapped out for me. I had honors everything all through high school. When I got into my junior and senior year, I decided to take AP classes so they would make my transcript look better for college. Through all this though, I'm not sure if it is beneficial or if it does more harm that good. I think it helps students because they don't feel like their class is boring because they are challenged whereas in a standard class they may not be challenged. On the other hand, I think sometimes the level you are on may affect the friends that you have. I know when I was in high school I usually became friends with the people who were in my classes because these were the ones I saw on a normal basis.

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Jessica Mundy


Thu Oct 09, 2008 12:45 pm
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So I am probably the only one that did not go to a tracking school. At my high school we just followed whichever class came next in line. If we excelled in one class we could choose to skip the next level. I don's see how this way wouldn't work in a public school. Now I do have to point out that I was attending a "prep" school. Therefore all of the students were expected to go to college. Nobody in my classes didn't go to college. We all had to make appointments with our college school adviser, twice! I would like a nice pro con list to tracking because I just can not see anything beneficial coming from it. Tracking begins in elementary school. And as we learned in Ed Psyc children advance as different rates. You can accurately test a second grader and they test low and so you assume they wont make their way to college! But this is what this system predicts. I feel we didn't argue the right point in class. Everyone seems to be ok with tracking because every school does it. Me on the other hand, will definitely fight against it when possible.

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~Natalie Wolfe


Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:30 pm
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I really agree with Kelly. I was always in the elevated AP/AG group and it really was beneficial to me. I had a wonderful experience in high school and the biggest reason for that was being grouped with other intelligent, upwardly mobile and college bound students. I see that separating the lower can student lead to a high level of inequality, but in circumstances such as my own, it was extremely important to those who were going to college. In a school where a mere 10 to 15% of students made it to a four year university, we had to band together, push each other to be better, and demand classes that ACTUALLY prepared you for college. In a school where average is below average for anywhere else, you sometimes have to put the best of the best together, pour all the resources you can into them, and hope that at least they can make it out to do greater things.

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Aaron Ross Jones


Fri Dec 12, 2008 5:01 pm
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