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ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

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Detracking for Excellence and Equity

by Carol Corbett Burris and Delia T. Garrity

Table of Contents

Chapter 6. Teaching and Learning in the Heterogeneous Classroom

When we began the detracking process in the Rockville Centre School District, there was comparatively little research available on the best methods for teaching heterogeneous classes. We used Madeline Hunter's instructional model—a model we continue to follow for basic lesson development—and encouraged teachers to regularly integrate cooperative learning in their lessons for guided practice. Support classes and extra help provided alternative instruction and extra practice for learners who struggled. During this early phase of detracking, when the lowest track was eliminated and three tracks became two, we were not familiar with practices such as differentiated instruction and constructivism. Even so, students benefited from detracking, and student achievement scores increased.

We now have even more instructional strategies to apply in our schools. Constructivist learning theory and differentiated instruction strategies have provided insights into how we can adjust teaching to meet the needs of diverse learners. New knowledge of learner-centered educational practices has taught us that schools can deliver the promise of meeting the needs of all learners without resorting to ability grouping. By altering our methods of instruction in heterogeneous classes, we can accomplish what tracking never could—excellent educational experiences for all students.


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