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End to Tracking Won't Help Struggling Students

May 14, 1995

In her article "Tracking Students Fails to Produce Right Results" (Valley Commentary, April 16) Adrienne Mack makes inaccurate statements and reaches unjustifiable conclusions.

She begins by discussing a theory of "fixed intelligence" and the use of pupils' "intelligence" in the process of ability grouping in the Los Angeles Unified School District. As a matter of fact, the LAUSD abandoned intelligence testing and adopted the criteria of achievement test results together with achievement in the classroom for pupil placement for ability grouping.

Ms. Mack has no basis for her conclusion that students from "remedial" classes would do better with brighter classmates around them and that the students who are more accomplished would not suffer.

I have taught students of all ability levels. I have taught many "basic" classes, the lowest ability level programmed at my school. I have taught "classes from hell." Usually, the disruptive students are the lowest-achieving in the class. They are so far behind that they cannot hope to do the assigned work. They must have remediation!

Unfortunately, so-called remedial classes are not remedial. A remedial class must be small enough to enable the teacher to provide individual attention to help students to catch up.

Seventh-grade math students range in achievement from third grade to readiness for algebra, and there are many levels in between. How is it possible for a teacher to teach all of these levels to 38 students in the same room during the same period?

Goals in a heterogeneously grouped class are higher than the goals in a class for low achievers. So students of low ability are more likely to be discouraged. Their perception of themselves will be primarily in terms of their standing in the class, rather than as members of a class which has low standing in relation to other classes.

The public schools can and must concentrate on providing true remediation to help each student reach his or her full potential.


Woodland Hills

Bramson taught at Taft High School in Woodland Hills. She retired in 1994.

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