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CCVLC Teachers/ Paolo Freire Posters
Digging Deeper: Chapter 10
School Structure: How Grouping and Tracking Shape Students' Opportunities to Learn

Further Reading

  • Arizona State University education professor Alfredo Artiles writes about the social construction of special education and the overrepresentation of students of color in special education classifications. Of particular interest to teachers are two of his books. One, written with University of Texas, Austin education professor Alba Ortiz, is English Language Learners with Special Needs: Identification, Placement, and Instruction (Washington D.C.: Center for Applied Linguistics, 2002); it summarizes research and best practices into a guide for making appropriate referrals of English learners to special education. A second, written with Grace Zamora-Durán, is Reducing Disproportionate Representation of Culturally Diverse Students in Special and Gifted Education (Reston, VA: The Council for Exceptional Children, 1997).
  • Indiana University professor Ellen A. Brantlinger’s book Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Justifies School Advantage (New York: Falmer Press, 2003) is a fascinating report of her study of how highly educated professional, middle-class parents work the tracking system at their schools to advantage their own schoolchildren. She documents how these middle-class tracking advantages come at a cost to children from less-wealthy families.
  • Tracking Inequality: Stratification and Mobility in American High Schools (New York: Teachers College Press, 1999) is written by UC Berkeley professor Samuel Lucas. Lucas utilizes nationally representative data to discuss the effects of tracking systems on high school students as well as social patterns inherent within tracking.
  • Hugh Mehan, professor of sociology at the University of California-San Diego, studies the processes by which constructed categories affect students’ schooling experiences. His book with Irene Villanueva, Lea Hubbard, and Angela Lintz, Constructing School Success: The Consequences of Untracking Low-Achieving Students (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) discusses the educational and social consequences of a successful educational innovation, AVID, that successfully “untracks” low-achieving ethnic and language minority students.
  • Jeannie Oakes, professor emeritus of education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, studied inequalities in the allocation of resources and learning opportunities in schools, and equity-minded reform. Her book Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), first published in 1985 and in a second edition in 2005, describes how tracking and grouping by ability affects the classroom experiences of low-income students and students of color, most of whom are identified as having “low” academic ability or as “slow” learners. It also describes research and best practices for detracking. With colleagues, including Amy Stuart Wells and Martin Lipton, Oakes has also written about middle and senior high schools engaged in detracking reforms. Her book Becoming Good American Schools: The Struggle for Virtue in School Reform (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999), written with Karen Hunter Quartz, Steve Ryan, and Martin Lipton, relates the experiences of middle schools engaged in these reforms. Another book, Navigating the Politics of Detracking (Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Publications, 2000), co-authored with Kevin Welner, professor of education policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, provides practical advice for educators seeking to detrack their schools.
  • City University of New York psychology Professor Michelle Fine’s video “Off Track: Classroom Privilege All,” raises fundamental educational questions about how we define intelligence and who we deem to be intelligent. The setting of the video is a successful, rigoroud untracked World Literature course in suburban Montclair High School in New Jersey—a course in which diverse students work together, constructing deep knowledge and powerful relationships.

Websites to Peruse

  • The Center for the Social Organization of Schools directs the Talent Development Middle and High School projects. Talent Development Schools establish separate learning communities of 200 to 300 students. These small learning communities are traditionally organized into vertical, untracked houses with teaching teams (two or three teachers) being responsible for fewer than 100 students. More information can be found online at .
  • California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) works to improve English Learners’ access to rigorous, high-quality bilingual education.

Resources for Teaching

  • Detracking for Excellence and Equity (Alexandria, VA:Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008), by Carol Burris and Delia Garrity provides educators with a practical guide for detracking their schools. The authors provide advice for elementary, middle, and high school teachers, including how to counter resistance to detracking reforms.
  • Professor Mara Sapon-Shevin at Syracuse University has investigated classroom strategies to promote learning in mixed-ability classes. One of her books, Because We Can Change the World: A Practical Guide to Building Cooperative, Inclusive Classroom Communities (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2010), is a good resource for preschool through middle school teachers, who are committed to inclusive education.
  • Professor Carol Ann Tomlinson at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education has done research and written widely about teaching in mixed-ability classrooms. She also works nationally and internationally with teachers and administrators who want to develop classrooms and school that are actively responsive to academically diverse student populations. Among her books that are very useful to teachers are How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2004), The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of all Learners (Reston, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1999), and Fulfilling the Promise of the Differentiated Classroom: Strategies and Tools for Responsive Teaching (Reston, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003).
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