Throughout this entire article written by Jeannie Oakes, all I could think about was how true it was to my own middle school and high school experiences. This idea of "tracking" is that students who are known to be smarter are placed in "high-ability classrooms" while students who do not display clear signs of intelligence are placed in lower-ability classrooms. This means that the instruction within these classrooms differs immensely. The high-ability students are being challenged daily and being asked to use critical thinking skills in order to learn from each other and the real world. In the lower-ability classes the teachers spend more time on discipline and classroom etiquette, rather than critical thinking or classroom discussions. This results in worksheets, busy work, and allows more time for students to get left behind.
This was the exact system my middle school used. Each grade was divided into 4 or 5 different classes. The same students were in all of your classes and these classes were determined based on how your previous years teachers think you did academically. I was in the high-ability class and I had friends who were in the lower-ability class. This gave me plenty of opportunities to compare and contrast our assignments and figure out how these classes were divided. Although it was never explicitly said that there was a level difference between the classes, everyone knew. In my eighth grade English class, my class had a paper to write on one of the books we had read. The lower-level class read the same book but only ever read it in class when the teacher could read it to them, my class had to read it on our own, which allowed for more class discussion and therefore made our papers stronger. The lower-ability class had to write the same paper but theirs was required to be significantly shorter than ours, more like a summary of the book to make sure they understood what the book was about.
Transitioning into high school these classes did not change much. The higher-ability kids took the honors classes while every one else took College Prep classes or lower. I'm not sure how I feel about this method of instruction even after reading this article. I believe it is a good way to ensure that higher-level learners are achieving their full potential, but I think it is cutting the other students short without even giving them a chance. So, there are obvious flaws on the idea of "Tracking" because every student deserves the same learning opportunity. However, it becomes a fuzzy situation when you try to blend a classroom and then the higher-ability learners are not being challenged because the other students are struggling and vice versa.