Sunday, December 19, 2010

more brown

Even in schools that are successfully integrated, racial disparities persist. One reason for this is tracking. In most schools, there are at least three or four tracks ranging from special education (when it's not mainstreamed) to honors or gifted programs. On a whole (once again, trying not to generalize too much), pupils of color are disproportionately represented in the lower tracks, and white students are disproportionately represented in the higher tracks. These tracks are not equally valued and do not lead to equal opportunities upon school completion. A student who took the vocational track in high school is not afforded the same options upon graduation as a student who took the college preparatory track. Obviously, for the most part, students are not assigned into tracks based on concious racist assumptions by teacher and administrators, but studies (which I could cite if I had my books from Multicultural Education, but they're in Noho, so deal) have shown that there is a degree of unconcious bias that factors into the tracking decisions.

The solution here, I think, is differentiated education. Obviously, not every single student can be taught in the same classroom. However, the vast majority can. Clearly it takes more work on the part of teachers, but it is a possibility. (There's a really good book about this, but once again, my shit's in Noho.) I will admit, I've been in classes where people have been at very different levels and it hasn't worked at. all., but I really believe there's a way to make it work - to challenge those who need challenging and offer assistance to those who need catching up while both groups take the same curriculum.

I'm not saying that either vocational education classes or APs should be abolished...I think both are decidedly good things. All I'm saying is give students choices on what they want to take and abolish the selection criteria attached to these classes. Press for full inclusion (obviously with special provisions) for students with special educational needs as much as possible. I think that this would go a long way toward achieving greater educational equity.

Of course, you'd still have to deal with the bigotry of soft expectactions, monocultural curriculum and the wildly uneven quality of teachers, but those are other topics for other times.

Tomorrow, theatre reviews!

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