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Critics of academic tracking argue that it perpetuates society's existing social structure, which is unfairly organized and limited by race and class. This paper presents findings of a study that compared teaching practices in tracked and detracked high school classes in a small city in upstate New York. Four social-studies and four science teachers volunteered to teach the same 9th- and 10th-grade curricula to classes grouped and ungrouped by ability. Teachers were encouraged to use cooperative learning in their detracked classes as their primary instructional method. Classrooms were observed during the second year of the project, the 1995-96 academic year. Findings indicate that teaching in detracked classes fostered richer use of language and a variety of teaching methods than found in the tracked classes. Students and teachers reported a preference for cooperative learning. Results of statewide testing indicated no difference in overall achievement of students, whether in tracked or detracked classes. There was no evidence to support the notion that instructional practices in tracked classes were more effective or efficient. It is recommended that teachers learn how to adapt their instruction to a wider range of student achievement and interests within a single classroom. (LMI)

Descriptors: Ability Grouping, Classroom Environment, Cooperative Learning, Grouping (Instructional Purposes), Heterogeneous Grouping, High Schools, Instructional Effectiveness, Instructional Innovation, Student Placement, Teacher Student Relationship, Track System (Education)

Autor: McDermott, Peter; And Others


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