For Black High School Students Math Tracking May Not Make Sense

In an experiment devised by researchers at the University of South Carolina, ninth grade students in a local high school who were tracked into below average mathematics education courses, were taught algebra instead like their peers who were put in a higher track. The low-level mathematics class was what the school called a math technology course and was designed as a review of math skills. Of those remediated students, nearly all were African American and half were from economically disadvantaged families.

For the entire semester the teacher used the college-prep curriculum and treated the students no differently than their counterparts who were ‘tracked’ for algebra. The result was that 44 of the 49 students passed the course.

“All children can learn when given a chance, coupled with effective and culturally relevant teaching and support,” says Rhonda Jeffries, an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina, who helped design the project.

Dr. Jeffries added that “students were more confident. They started saying that, for the first time in their lives, they really loved math. This, to me, is a remarkable outcome. That is what teaching is all about.”

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  1. I really appreciate the findings of this investigation. Where is the article? I looked for the link for the PDF but did not find one. In what journal may I go to find the results. I need them to make a similar point at my current university. We have to do better by students and it starts with quality instruction and respect of the student’s ability to learn. Bravo to Professor Jeffries and her colleagues!

  2. I saw the article on the University of South Carolina website. I don’t know if I am allowed to publish the url here. But if you go to the university website and search the names, you should be able to find the article. The study was performed by Hope Reed, a doctoral student at University of South Carolina who was also teaching at Blythewood High School and education professor Rhonda Jeffries. Their suspicion that tracking was actually causing further delays proved to be true. Out of the 49 students deemed to require remediation 44 of them passed the algebra course which was contained the same course material given to students tracked for algebra.

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