Let's track our children through schools

Tuesday, September 02, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

As we enter the start of another academic year, administrators, parents and students will face recurring conflicts. There are no easy fixes on grouping, social promotion or retention and screening for external examinations.

Scholarly articles have been written to support placing the highest-achieving students in one cluster and the lowest in another. Then there is tracking — having proficiency dictate which classes students would take. There are strong arguments against grouping as critics feel it perpetuates inequalities, but there are equally strong arguments by proponents.

I was able to focus my instruction and increase student achievement between my GCSE Higher and Foundations tiers. The resurgence and popularity of Gifted and Talented programmes are on the rise again, giving a fair stretch to top-tier students, some of whom now take college courses while finishing high school. Similarly, special education programmes also give that fair stretch to students with learning disabilities or who just happen to be slower than their classmates.

In the 1970s, students and parents received four successive years of report cards and nearly everyone knew and accepted why they ended up in 5A, 5B or 5C, etc. Today, we have made strides in parent-teacher communication; parents don't have to wait; there is now electronic grade book software with parent access. Today, a student has more power to shift upwards through the groupings.

Most teachers are hard-working and patient and want as many students as possible to pass their CSECs or IGCSEs, but they should never recommend a student who is not at the level for a serious attempt at mastery or pass. Decision making is not flippant and parents who monitor gradebooks or keep in touch with teachers would already know which subjects their children can take.

It is argued that schools screen out potential failures to boost their pass rates. What is the fix? What is the alternative to screening? I propose that the data on screening numbers be presented alongside the pass rates in the interest of full disclosure. Another fix is that more parent-teacher partnerships be fostered to lower the number of students who perform poorly and fail screen tests. Almost every parent has a cellphone and could be more influential in their children's academic life. If they learn how to use their phones to vote for their favourite stars they can certainly learn how to access the school to telephone a teacher.

Sandra M. Taylor Wiggan

sandra_wiggan@yahoo.co.uk

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