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School Colors Discussion

cchezik's picture

The first discussion between Parkway West's Foundations in Education class and Bryn Mawr College's Sociology of Ed class will be regarding the movie School Colors. The BMC students have composed questions for each PW student to answer. Once the PW students answer in their prospective groups, their BMC groups members will respond. Each individual has to respond twice in their groups. Here are the questions:

1. One of the teachers at Berkeley High said: Why should we have integration in school when it doesn’t exist in society?  Do you agree/disagree?  Why?

2. What are your thoughts on tracking?  What about the links between diversity and tracking? 

3. Certain ways of speaking (white, middle class) are considered more “appropriate” than other ways of speaking.  How should schools deal with this issue? 


When answering the questions, make sure that you are clear about what question you are answering- you can also touch on more than one question.

Below I have an example of how a dialog should/could go.


Jerron Corley's picture

Response to Question #1

It is to my belief that there is no existence of integration in our society. There are areas in the city of Philadelphia in which the population is predominantly African-American. Within those areas, it is to my strong personal beliefs that there is no integration in our city because there is no social interaction between races. Most people of an ethnicity choose to interact with their own ethnicity if they were the people they were raised around.

BrittneyP's picture


I personally believe the idea of tracking as a whole is a splendid idea. The conflict however comes in when the thoughts of sepertion , embbarasment and ignorance come in. Everyone is different correct ? well so are our learning abilities. Many of us are visual learners while others are not, we all have various needs towards how we retain information. Trcking is a great idea it's just the way the students personally feel about the seperation thts starts caos. Students have to be reminded that no style of learning is "smarter" then the other or "dumber" then the other , re-assurance that learning is learning is key.

gloudon's picture

Brittney,  I really like that


I really like that you brought the idea of learning styles into this conversation!  Since you like the idea of tracking, but not in its current form perhaps you could design a new style of tracking with less stigma.  Intead of high, middle and low tracks, what do you think about breaking students up into learning style groups?  There could be a visual learner track, an auditory learner track, and a kinestitic (hands-on learning) track.  Stigma would be taken out of the equation because the method of division focused on student strenghs.

RamintaH's picture


I don't think perceptions are the only problems with tracking.  It should be a major red flag when the different tracks are significantly stratified by race.  Are all people of a certain race visual learners?  Probably not.  Something else is clearly going on to separate races into different tracks.

Also, the way tracking works now, I believe people are put onto tracks based on overall achievement, not learning style.  Perhaps tracking based on learning style, the way you describe it, would be a better idea.  However, the misperceptions you describe can lead to real, concrete problems of inequality: once people start thinking a certain learning style is "dumber," the teachers might start treating the students like they're "dumber" and thus not teach them as well, thus giving them an unequal education.  I feel like any time students are separated based on a specific criterion, even if the idea is initially well-intended, inequalities are bound to arise over time.

sully04's picture

I agree with Raminta's

I agree with Raminta's comment that race stratifications are a major red flags. I think looking at the history of tracking, it becomes clear that the concept was born out of a need to differentiate between immigrant groups and wealthy, white families in terms of availability of secondary education. If racist thoughts and segregating by race has gone out of style (we would like to hope), than shouldn't tracking?

Brandee Jones 's picture

Group C

My thoughts on tracking are that it isnt really an idea that I would want to put out publicly to the students. They might get offended or think they could be switched into a smarter, or standard leveled class. I have nothing against tracking thought, because if I needed to be in a standard class or was worthy of being in a AP class, I would let my teacher help me better myself and education so I could get where i wanted/needed to be.

gloudon's picture

I agree, tracking is

I agree, tracking is definitely a sensitve subject to the students being tracked!  Hypothetically, would you only want your teacher to make the decision about which track you belonged in?  Could other sources be helpful or harmful in making that kind of decision?  Can standardized test scores, grades, parent input or counselor input be incorperated into tracking placement decisions?

WilliamM's picture

Group E

In all honesty I see nothing wrong with the idea of tracking the real problem is how they go about it. The idea sounds perfect because as I see it there is are not students who have "Low Acedemic Ability" but those that do not want to work. If you are placed in a low track it dosent mean you are stupid or dumb it just means there is room for approvement and in my eyes I wont stop until I reach the top.

Asiaw's picture

group I

i believe that the tracking setup is a set-back for all students in a lower track because with knowing they are in a low track they probably would think that i'm dumb, which is a decrease in confidence and then they would never actually try to do work and will continue to stay in a low track.

RachelK's picture

I agree, Asia. When students

I agree, Asia. When students are put in a lower track not only may they have lower confidence, but other people may seem them as "dumb" when they really are not. It would also be really difficult for students who are in lower tracks to move up because when other people do not expect them to do well in school, they don't.

JessicaG's picture

Group F

I don’t feel that an “appropriate” way of speaking should be described as white, middle-class. I don’t even think that the standard English is technically appropriate. Just like math, there needs to be a universality with the English language. It’s unfortunate that white, middle-class children may have more access to an education that really puts a stress on speaking “appropriately”. How schools should deal with this issue is debatable; obviously teachers need to be well versed in a standard English, but the students need to be willing to learn what they may consider a second language as compared to the street language. In addition to schooling, though, the family needs to be able to provide some sort of enhancement to this standard English. School is not the only place where learning needs to take place.

BlueBird's picture


I really like this idea that there needs to be universality within the English language. Although I am not sure what is should necessarily be, I think there defenitately needs to be a relationship between all of the different ways that people speak in the USA, especially considering that one of the things this country prides itself on is being diverse. If, what people are calling "Standard American English" was not associated with "white, middle class," not only would people be more likely to adopt it because it would no longer be associated with one race and class, but the language as a whole would be more malleable and adaptable to the influences pushed upon it by other languages spoken in the USA. Language is ever-changing and the challenge would be to keep English from changing too quickly.

RamintaH's picture

Group H

i think that school's shouldnt track thier students. The reason i say this is because that makes the students think that they are not good enough to be in the higher classes. also makes some students drop out.

FarrahK's picture

I agree. Schools should re

I agree. Schools should re think the choice to track its students. Tracking assumes and judges the capability of students to perform, which is unfair. There should be an equal chance to learn as well as an equal chance to quality learning experiences. Tracking a lot of times perpetuates a certain track in certain students in the future. For example, a student who is placed in a lower track may think she is "stupid" and then doesn't try hard enough etc., which would lead to being placed in a lower track the next year. 

JasmineB's picture


i agree because some kids, not all , but some kids may get discouraged by different things. I believe splitting children up by how they perform is a bad idea. if kids knew they were grouped into classes based on how they perform whether it's good or bad.

FarrahK's picture

As for the question on

As for the question on whether integration is relevant in a society where it appears not to occur, I disagree. I understand why some people feel alienated, which is understandable, but I think this is even more reason to push for integration as it challenges the current situation. Sitting back and accepting the ways of current society does nothing to change the situation. I did not appreciate the way the students and some of the teachers in the movie perpetuated the segregation by blaming it on the way current society is and then staying that way. It did not help the students' potential for acheivement. 

RamintaH's picture

Group H

I agree.  Even if we accept the notion that integration does no occur in the larger society, I think integration in schools is still an important thing to have.  It gives students an experience that they might not get in many other arenas.  I think it should make them more confident in dealing with other races when they are in a less integrated larger society, rather than allowing the groups to remain isolated from a sort of generalized "other."  (It's similar to the arguments for going to a women's college: to composition doesn't match society, but it allows students a break from an alienating and sometimes hostile environment to develop confidence and skills that can be used in the larger society.)

RamintaH's picture

Group H

How does tracking affect the way classrooms run?  I feel that higher-track classes tend to move at a faster pace and use different teaching styles.  Is this more or less effective than teaching everyone in the same classes?  What is the goal of tracking?  I imagine there is an element of "helping the underachieving students improve," but is there also an element of making the high-achieving students speed way ahead of the curve?

Zaneerah Wilson's picture

What are your thoughts on tracking? What about the links betwee

My thoughts on tracking are one-sided I think it's extremely wrong and inappropriate. Within a classroom people who are academically challeneged should be in a classroom with people who are not. It challenges them and it would make them more competitive. Tracking brings people down if you know your not that bright and your in a lower class it makes you work on a lower level and but if your in a higher leveled class it makes you challenge yourself and work harder. So I'm completly against it. The links between diversity in tracking our that most colored people in the docummentry were in a lower class and that caused non-diverse classrooms and because of this students were unable to be in diverse classrooms. <3 .......

ellenv's picture


I think that one of the problems with tracking comes down to a lack of flexibility. Once a student has been placed on a specific track, it is hard to move from that track. Often, students get placed on a track early in their school career and then find it impossible to move from this track even if it not challenging them/benefitting them. I also agree with Zaneerah that tracking can be damaging to students because there are differences in how students are treated depending on the tracks they have placed in. A common theme of tracking is that there is a lack of student choice. Students do not get to choose the track they are assigned to and at the same time they do not get to decide how they are treated once they have been assigned to a track. I think this is odd because at its core, education is meant for the students. If the tracking system does not take into account the needs, desires, and opinions of students, then what is that saying about the purpose of education under a system of tracking?

Serendip Visitor's picture

group H

tracking on one hand is a good thing but on the other hand its not. the reason why it's a good reason is that people who are on the same level should be together because if their not then it mite slow down their learn process. it's bad because it makes it bad for the other low track people feel real bad about their self

Michael.M's picture

Group F

I agree with both Zaneerah and Ellenv about the topic Tracking. It is wrong and quite bias. Students should have their own choice if class/skill that they're comfortable in. Their abilities determine how well that they will perform in that class. This is questioning the purpose of education. This is probably one reason why students dropout of school. It's based on their desire of the work they're learning.

Randall Wilson's picture

I agree with Ellenv and

I agree with Ellenv and Zaneerah once students are assigned a certain group it's hard to move out that category because they think they have been tracked into a certain grouped due to their abilities and expectations. If they allowed students to choose where they want to be placed it can be more beneficial to the students and teachers. I think that because the students will work to their potential and the teacher will see that and find their strengths and weaknesses and help them with them

sully04's picture

Group I. Response

I totally agree with Zaneerah's post. She wrote "Tracking brings people down if you know your not that bright and your in a lower class it makes you work on a lower level and but if your in a higher leveled class it makes you challenge yourself and work harder," which I have found to be true. When a teacher has faith in your abilities and believes that you can do the work, it makes you work harder as a student. If you know that no one thinks you can acheive, you may not push yourself to achieve. Tracking plays such an important role in this process, and because it is so hard to move fluidly from different tracks, it sets certain kids up for failure and others up for success. It is a totally unfair process and does not allow students to learn from one another. 

WilliamG's picture


I agree that tracking is neither fair nor helpful, especially for students placed in the lower tracks. I think schools wrongly view weaker academic performance (in say, 1st or 2nd grade) as the foremost predicator of future success in later grades and in the workforce. There are many other factors besides IQ and motivation that affect how a student performs in a classroom, such as a student’s social and cultural background, and a student’s home situation.

If schools get rid of tracking, they should definitely still being aware of and responsive to the various strengths and weaknesses of their students. But I think that if students are given the chance to take the higher level classes and are motivated to learn, then the supposed performance and IQ gaps will lessen.

Brandee Jones's picture

Question number 2

I Think tracking is very rude, or obsered. They just need put everybody in the same grade classes no matter how smart they are or how low their scores are. They should work on that at home or in tutoring, not as an embarrasment in their own school. People could say " Oh your in one of the dumnb classes, and im in all my normal classes" Nobody wants to hear that.

SoniaG's picture

I agree that the

I agree that the psychological effects of being told "you're in a 'dumb' class" can be quite damaging, but what are the implications of having everyone together in one class?  Would that lead to more work for the teacher? (S)he might have to teach differently to different students, possibly create different assignments for different students.  Is that fair to the teacher?  And, do you think students would be cognizant of the intellectual stratification within the classroom?  Do you think it would still become clear who the "normal" kids are and who the "dumb" kids are?  I think tracking creates a ton of problems and can sometimes create a static environment for kids' intellectual growth.  I'm just not entirely convinced that complete detracking is the correct way to remedy this problem.

bhealy's picture

Group C - response

I think that you have a good point about the social stigma of being in leveled classes, but what about the students who really aren't at a high level in whatever they're learning, and who don't feel good enough to be in a class with their peers who seem to know a lot more? I'm just thinking about how it would feel to be surrounded by classmates who seem to understand things so much better. I would be really hesitant to speak up because I would be embarrassed to ask my questions. Are there ways that tracking could work that address these issues of "dumb classes" vs. "smart classes?" How could these social stigmas be erased, while at the same time making sure that some students aren't in way over their heads in classes? 

Michael.M's picture

Group F

Well the way people in school can deal with this issue is to probably take speaking class to help you speak better. It may not be "white" speaking, but at least at has improved just a bit. That's why their are speaking classes isn't it. Take what you have for advantage.

Emani Outterbridge's picture

2. What are your thoughts on tracking? What about the links bet

I Think tracking isnt right nor fair because people who isn't acadmecially intelligent shouldnt be seperated from people who are because they can learn from their peers who are intelligent.

Serendip Visitor's picture

No , I do not agree with you

No , I do not agree with you because everyone works at there own paste . So it will be difficult to put people who are intelligent with those who aren't . For example , if you put someone who isn't really intelligent in a class with people who are , that person will have problems with being in the class . Yes I understand they can help them , but at the end of the day they won't be there to help them , as of , if they have homework , or work to take home .

gloudon's picture

I agree with your argument

I agree with your argument that students of different learning abilites can learn from each other when taught together.   This idea you purposed actually has an official name - inclusion.  Inclusion in the classroom is a model of teaching where students of all learning abilites learn together in the same classroom, and learn from each other.  Can you think of any arguments against inclusion?

S.Griffin's picture


My thoughts on tracking is that it is perfectly fine. If a student has the ability to excel more than others they should be put into a place where they can work with others who are just as capable of doing the same as them. If a student is place in a class where the work is made for the student who needs more assistance, then the student who can do the work with no problem wont really be learning anything.

BaseemahM's picture

I agree with your response

I agree with your response Sharock, I think school should have tracking because if a student isn’t academically up there with the rest of the class why put them in a classroom where they don’t know the amount of things everybody else do. Eventually the student will cause a distraction because they will start acting up to hide the fact that they don’t know something.

Christine Calderon's picture

I completely agree with you

I completely agree with you that in providing the students who want to excel with an environment in which they can work with other students who have the same goal in mind. Although the students who are doing well can flourish in this kind of environment, what happens to those that are in a "lower" track?. The problem I see in tracking students is that the students who are in the "lower" track do not necessarily get the attention that they need. Also by extracting them and placing them into a separate classroom is a self esteem crusher. By separating them we are also not necessarily encouraging them to do more. We place ideas in their head that maybe they interpret as them not being good enough. However I do agree that for the students on the higher tracks it allows them to explore other material that maybe they couldn't get through in class. But my concern is for the students who may not have the encouragement to do more and be able to easily move from one track to another.

alicef's picture

GroupA tracking

I agree with the argument that there are benefits to tracking for kids who are performing above the average, but I think one of the issues that is brought up is the process by which students are tracked--especially students who struggle. The standards for tracking in many instances seem vaguely arbitrary and frequently racist (due to unfortunate excuses like stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings). Do you think the tracking system should stay in place but with more appropriate measures and greater flexibility for mobility between tracks? At my high school, at least, there were different tracks, but you weren't entirely bound to them. I was tracked low for math, but high for everything else. But I don't know how hard that type of system is to logistically implement on large urban schools though. I think something that may be lost in tracking average students is the idea of pushing students to perform better. Not every student is going to fall into easy tracking compartments. What about students who would straddle more than one track? How do you deal with those kids? Do you track them higher but worry about them struggling or do you track them lower and worry about them not being pushed to meet their own potential?

Serendip Visitor's picture

I Agree

I agree that tracking could benefit schools. I just believe that they should decide to track a different way. Maybe making the students take a test and then placing them in a special class could be done. The way they introduce students to their " special class " is the think I think should change. If you tell the lower class that they are the lower class and that they get extra help and easier things is not very helpful. The point in tracking is to help the lower classes move higher. If you tell them they are low that will discourage them and realize they don't really have high standards and so may just score the points they are expected to.

Tracey Hinnant's picture

Group B

I do think it's right to be separating children into different classes according to their academic ability, because everybody does have a different learning ability cause, many children learn at dissimilar abilities. Everybody is different when it comes down to learning something, or connecting with someone else. The way we progress are unlike to one another.

AmbrosiaJ's picture

Group B Reply

But how do you feel about students taking culturally biased exams to place them in these classes? Would you still feel the same way if the exams were not fair for all of the students?



RachelK's picture

It's true that everyone has

It's true that everyone has different learning abilities and tend to end up in classes based on these abilities. It is also good that teachers recognize the different abilities of their students. Do you think students who have "lower" academic ability and are placed in a class that reflects their ability will have a difficult time moving up in acadmic ability?

awhite's picture

Group I

I disagree with what the teacher said because integrating the schools can help the students face society with a different approach on what is going on in their society. With integrating the schools the students learn about other cultures and races.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Certain ways of speaking

Certain ways of speaking (white, middle class) are considered more “appropriate” than other ways of speaking. How should schools deal with this issue?

schools should deal with by making students use proper English and stop trying to communicate with each other by using slang words.

SGriffin.'s picture

Certain ways of speaking

I disagree i think because people are born into a certain enviorment where they are not taught but adapted to that language or way of speaking.All people I believe has the ability to speak proper English they just choose not to around people/enviorment that they are most comfortable with.

Serendip Visitor's picture

I agree because the only way

I agree because the only way students now days know how to talk is by using slang words. and students should try to change that by using standard proper english

billyr's picture



cchezik's picture

Example Group 1

I am responding to the question about tracking. I believe tracking inhibits the natural abilities of students. We are socialized in school, therefore if I am only socialized with people who have the same abilities as me, then I will never learn and progress.

cchezik's picture

Example Group 1

I agree but what about those with learning disabilities? Do you think that should be taken into account in the discussion of tracking?