Universal Access to a Quality Education: Research and Recommendations for the Elimination of Curricular Stratification

Carol C. Burris, Kevin G. Welner, and Jennifer W. Bezoza
The Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice 
December 2009

Arriving just days after our own report on detracking in Massachusetts, the Great Lakes Center takes a look at the effects of tracking on low-level learners. It should be noted that this outfit is a pseudo research front for the teachers’ unions of the Great Lakes states (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, etc.) and spends most of its energies and resources bashing studies that they don’t like. That said, this report’s conclusions are not completely off the wall. The authors plainly abhor tracking, or as they term it, “curricular stratification,” calling it both racist and classist. Not only are low-level classes disproportionately filled with minority students, but a minority student with the same grades as his white peer is more likely to be placed in a low-level track. Surely they are right that no child should be relegated to watered-down classes or dead-end tracks to nowhere. And encouraging more students to take rigorous courses is altogether praiseworthy. If only the report stopped there. It also tells states to eradicate tracking completely (they even include sample statutory language) and admonishes districts to routinely evaluate the makeup of classes to check for de facto tracking. They also favor PR campaigns aimed at parents and communities on the benefits of detracking. It’s one thing to lop off the lowest tracks in a school; it’s quite another to eliminate super-charged learning opportunities for the highest achieving kids, regardless of their race or class. Read the full brief here.

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