Student Tracking To Be Analyzed, Says Superintendent

'We should be real careful about what processes we are using to [place students in learning levels],' said Superintendent Penny MacCormack.

Montclair district's practice of student tracking -- pairing students of similar educational aptitude into learning groups -- was questioned this week about its effect on race in the classroom. 

Superintendent Penny McCormack responded Friday to concerns from the Civil Rights Commission about the racial distribution of students in learning levels based on tracking.  

"I think we need to look at that," said MacCormack. "We need to take a good hard look at that, and in addition how and why students are placed in the levels."

MacCormack was unable to elaborate on how student learning levels in the schools were broken down by race, or whether any racial segregation could arise from the tracking system. 

MacCormack said the district is concerned about how the student tracking system may impact racial distribution in the learning levels, and that it will be analyzed in the coming months. 

"That is data we need to collect," said MacCormack. 

"We should be real careful about what processes we are using to [place students in learning levels] and that they are transparent and clear to everyone involved."

The effect of the tracking system on race will be presented at the beginning of April with the superintendent's Plan of Entry for the district's future.

If any changes to student tracking were to come about, said MacCormack, it would be based on the data and input from the community. 

"We're not going to rush to judgement," said MacCormack. "We're going to take our time and look at the data." 

Montclair's Own February 23, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Data. Data. Data. Data. Data. Data. Data. Corporate education anyone? Let's go to the data. Montclair, particularly at the high school level, might have different leveled classes, but anyone can take anything. There are no testing, grade, or recommendation requirements to take a particular class. It's a blessing and a curse. The superintendent should be able to get this information easily. Data. Data. Data. Data. Data. Data.
know more February 23, 2013 at 11:50 AM
This article doesn't tell me anything. Agree with Monclair's Own.
Brian Ford February 23, 2013 at 11:51 AM
I'm the first one to criticize corporate education and the data cult, Montclair's Own, but something needs to be done about this issue -- and in this case, there can be some good data to illuminate the problem and inform a solution. Columbia HS (So. Orange-Maplewood) eliminated levels.
know more February 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Mark, is this journalism or what? You can do better
JM February 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Trackiing begins early in a child's career and they are aware. I was able to move my granddaughter's reading up 5 levels this past summer. This process took less than 8 weeks. If this had not happenened she would have been tracked into being evaluated for a disability. How long will data gathering take? Perhaps the curriculum should be evaluated as a first step. Everyday Math has been deemed unsuccessful by many school district. A lot of questions and frustration.
Montclair Harveys February 23, 2013 at 02:05 PM
What does this article even mean? Will all our students in middle and high school now be forced into the same math classes?
fritz February 23, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Student tracking is a vital component of education reform per StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee, as was demonstrated in Washington DC per her book Radical. Not sure what specific concern there is by the Civil Rights Commission, but I hope that it does not lead to any diminishing of the practice of effective teaching and student tracking here.
David Roon February 23, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Patch - can you ask the Superintendent if this means the different levels of core classes (math, English, etc.) at MHS will all be leveled into one "regular" level of classes? What about the middle schools? What evidence (data data data data) to use her favorite term suggests this is an effective practice? Lastly, why make these radical changes in year one? Does she think the Montclair schools need that much improvement
Joe Kavesh February 24, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Fritz, The Civil Rights Commission serves as an advisory board to the Town Council. The Commission recommends programs designed to eliminate discrimination, addresses problems involving tensions in the community and monitors the town's Affirmative Action policy. As a Commissioner on the Civil Rights Commission, I attended Thursday's meeting with Dr. MacCormack. The purpose of the meeting was to give Commissioners and citizens an opportunity to provide observations and suggestions to Dr. MacCormack as she prepares her "entry plan." A wide array of topics were discussed. The Commission meets the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m. in the Municipal Building. More information about the Commission is available on the township website. Stop by. Joe Kavesh
Concerned Parent in 07043 February 25, 2013 at 12:52 PM
The CRC does not make educational decisions in Montclair. The real question is: Will all students in the middle or high schools be forced into heterogenous classes for math or other core subjects? Or will there still be Pre-Algebra and Algebra for middle schoolers? I am out of town this week, can someone ask Dr. McCormick.
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 February 25, 2013 at 03:19 PM
School Superintendent MacCormick was not prepared for the question from the Civil Rights Commission and still had not examined student tracking in Montclair. Data, data, data, and more data is not the way to respond to this question.
Julia Burch February 27, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Just a point of fact: Columbia High School in Maplewood/South Orange, has not eliminated levels. Moderate changes have been made at the middle schools and some changes are under way at the high school to reduce the number of levels and make placement more equitable, but most classes at the High School are still leveled where appropriate.
Brian Ford February 28, 2013 at 04:11 AM
julia - thank you - i was using information given to me by a person in the SO-M district, which is apparently erroneous... still, they are moving in a good direction and i would like us to do the same, and eventually de-level all classes (but let's be clear - i know i have colleagues who agree but i am not speaking for the staff as a whole)
Frustrated Parent May 05, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I am shocked by this statement. My daughter went through Mount Hebron where I saw no evidence of "tracking". The only place one could claim leveled education are in the math classes and those are based on skill levels - nothing else. In fact, we were frustrated by the group projects where some students did all the work and others very little. These results did little to prevent the groups from being assigned again and again. I am so frustrated by the suggestion that this is determined by race. Everyone has the opportunity to excel. Start with outreach to the community and support for students and families... There is more to be gained there than spending more time collecting data...


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