Beyond Tracking: Finding Success in Inclusive Schools, a collection of twenty-five articles and essays, provides a rationale for detracking, a set of strategies for doing so, case studies of successfully detracked schools, and some suggestions regarding successful teaching methods for heterogeneous classes.
Robert Slavin and Jomills Braddock assert in the lead article, "Why Ability Grouping Must End: Achieving Excellence and Equity in Education," that no research has yet shown that tracking results in better achievement for all students. Rather, they state, students in lower track classes perform less well than similar students in heterogeneous classes, and students in upper track classes perform no better than their counterparts in heterogeneous classes. In another essay, "Tracking and Its Effects on African Americans in the Field of Education," Jane and Fred Page note that it is no coincidence that the great increase in tracking coincided with court-ordered desegregation in U.S. schools.
It is the consensus of the contributors to this volume that issues of equity for all students in a democracy demand detracked schools. Nevertheless, detracking a school is a difficult and tricky business. Designing effective professional development to support teachers' mastery of pedagogies that work in heterogeneous classes is a complex endeavor.
Convincing parents to support detracking in a school, especially parents of the top-track students, is a daunting political task. One essay, "Untracking Your Middle School: Nine Tentative Steps Toward Long-Term Success" by Paul George, presents an example of how one middle school principal handled this situation. He allowed the parents to express their objections, then simply asked if their concerns were based on knowledge or intuition. As expected, they replied "intuition." He responded that he was using knowledge, gave them copies of the reading and the research that supported his decision to detrack, and invited them to return after they had completed the reading. None returned. Implementation of the detracking plan was carried out with no further objections.
The essays contained in this volume would form a good foundation for a school or community exploring or discussing the contentious issue of tracking and the decision to detrack a school.