Tracking is a dirty word in education. Most commonly it refers to the practice to placing students on a “track” towards college or on a track that doesn’t go to college sometime referred to as “work ready”. Historically in the United States this has had racial implication with White students being on the college track and non-White students on a non-college track. Today, many people hold that this practice through a variety of court decisions, laws, and change in social mores has been addressed and that all students now have the opportunity to go to college if they want.
As any social issue with a long history in any society the problem is much more complicated than simply having a policy place that is supposed to solve the problem. The question of what student gets to go to college touches upon issues of expectations as well as practices both de facto and de jure.
Kelly and Price (2011) tackle this issue and find that current tracking policies vary from school to school. In fact they find that “…the choice is not whether a school will track students but how it will.” Many schools today still have “college” tracks that are not explicitly for White students but end up up under representing non-white students. Some schools attempt to address the issue of under-representation by having academic criteria but when schools that under-perform are schools with a predominantly minority population these students of color become “ineligible” for the college track classes. Some schools allow students to sign-up for the college tack if they desire. However, Kelly (2009) and Broaded (1997) found that this practice may make the racial tracking worse as “…White students and thier parents more readily capitalize on electivity…”
To me the issue folds into the issue of expectations. All students should graduate from high school prepared for college. This eliminates the issue of tracking. Some critics suggest that not all students want to go to college or are not college “material”; society needs plumbers and mechanics just as much as doctors and lawyers. Society needs a wide variety of people; what it doesn’t need to do is limit the potential of it’s children.