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On the Same Track

On the Same Track

How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle Against Resegregation

A public school principal's account of the courageous leaders who have dismantled the tracking systems in their schools in order to desegregate classrooms

Author: Carol Corbett Burris

Price: $20.00

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What would happen if a school eliminated the "tracks" that rank students based on their perceived intellectual abilities? Would low-achieving students fall behind and become frustrated? Would their higher-achieving peers suffer from a "watered-down" curriculum? Or is tracking itself the problem? A growing body of research shows that tracking doesn't increase learning for the minority and low-income students who are overrepresented in low-track classrooms. This de facto segregation has led many civil rights advocates to argue that tracking is turning back the clock on equal education.

As a principal at a New York high school, Carol Corbett Burris believed that the curriculum for the best students was the best curriculum for all. She helped lead a bold plan to eliminate tracking from her school, and the results couldn't have been further from the doom-and-gloom scenarios of tracking proponents. Instead, there was a dramatic improvement in the achievement of all students, across racial and socioeconomic divisions, and a near elimination of the achievement gap. Today, due to those efforts, International Baccalaureate English is the twelfth-grade curriculum for South Side students, and all students take the same challenging courses, together, to prepare them for college.

In On the Same Track, Burris draws on her own experience, on the experiences of other schools, and on the latest research to make an impassioned case for detracking. Not only does the practice of tracking fail to benefit lower-tracked students, as Burris shows, but it also results in the resegregation of classrooms. Furthermore, she argues that many of today's popular reforms emanate from the same "sort and select" mentality that reinforces social stratification based on race and class.

On the Same Track is a rousing, controversial, and yet optimistic account of how we need to change our assumptions and policies if we are to live up to the promise of democratic public education. Only by holding all students to the same high standards can we ensure that all have the same opportunity to live up to their full potential.

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Contents

Introduction vii

1. The Boy with the Purple Tie 1

2. Keeping Track

Challenging the Status Quo on Grouping Practices 11

3. Tracking and Classroom Segregation 21

4. Tracking and Student Achievement 35

5. The District That Stopped Sorting Students Rockville Centre 55

6. The Politics of Detracking When Equity and Fear Collide 78

7. Race and Detracking The Stories of Two Districts 90

8. Tracking and Leadership 114

9. Lessons Learned and the Reforms of Today 139

Note from the Series Editor 164

Notes 166

Index 185

"An important book that should be required reading for educators, parents and school boards." -Kirkus Reviews

"This well-researched, concise book by public school principal Burris. makes a strong argument against 'tracking'. Burris's accessible book will be valuable to teachers and administrators seeking a more just way to fulfill the mandate of public education, as well as to parents who fear classroom heterogeneity." -Publishers Weekly

"Burris offers a compelling story of efforts to change the practice of tracking and a passionate argument for educational equity-and excellence-for all students as education reform moves forward." -Booklist

"School officials will still have much to discover from Burris's clear and compelling case for democratic educational reform." -Library Journal

"Readers of this book will hear the impassioned voice of Carol Burris, a voice that is now at the forefront of the national movement to root educational policy and practice in a firm commitment to provide all children with equitable opportunities to learn. An award-winning principal and scholar, Burris weaves her rich personal experiences in detracking together with a deep knowledge of the research and illustrative case studies in other schools and districts. Further, she draws connections between the lessons of tracking and those of other popular reforms such as vouchers, charters, and test-based accountability systems. Readers from all backgrounds will find insights and motivation to move, as Burris has done, to make our schools dramatically more educative and inclusive." -Kevin Welner, Professor of Education Policy, University of Colorado Boulder

"Carol Burris provides a thoughtful examination of the practice of ability grouping in K-12 education. She demonstrates convincingly that tracking replicates in schools the stratification that exists in society, and diminishes educational opportunities for children. In doing so, the practice undermines the vision of school as the 'great equalizer.' Burris also places the practice of tracking in the larger context of current education policy. On the Same Track makes us reconsider the true mission of public education: what we want for our schools, our children and ultimately our society." -Wendy Lecker, Senior Attorney, Education Law Center

"On the Same Track< will inspire and guide those who want to dismantle the tracking systems in public schools and it can change the minds of those who haven't realized the discriminatory effects of this pervasive practice. Carol Burris has successfully blended careful analysis with practical and inspiring stories to offer a compelling reason why separate remains unequal in education today." -Elaine Gross, President, ERASE Racism

Reviews

Review: Choice - December 1, 2014

"A must read for school leadership and policy makers."

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