Welner, Kevin G.
Legal Rights, Local Wrongs: When Community Control Collides with Educational Equity
University of Colorado at Boulder
Explores the normative and political difficulties experienced by racially diverse schools that are implementing detracking reform.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
State University of New York Press
- African American and Latino students were disproportionately placed in low track classes that encompassed a wide range of measured abilities, causing these students to have to overcome great odds to move up within the tracked structure.
- Each year, African American and Latino students fell further and further behind their high-tracked counterparts.
- When combined with track placement, race becomes a direct predictor of lower test scores.
- Low track classes have a detrimental impact on students' later academic performance.
- African American and Latino students are disproportionately taking these low track courses, even after controlling for prior achievement.
- Short-term achievement gains or detriments from placement in a detracted class were on a very small scale, as opposed to a high or low tracked class.
- Detracking improves school benefits for low-income and minority students.
- Detracking did not present a significant overall disadvantage to the formerly high tracked students.
- Detracking forced teachers to rethink their teaching strategies and learn to teach to mixed classrooms, although it did not solve uneven teaching.
- The "zone of mediation" is a tool to bring the issues of a) political conflict over resources that are perceived to be scarce and b) an ideological conflict over societal values and beliefs as they are acted out in schools.
- The boundaries of the zone of mediation are shaped by forces originating at societal and global levels, recognizing that while each school is unique, it is ultimately defined by a myriad of normative, political, technical, and inertial forces at the local, regional, national, and global levels.
- While the zone of mediation does define the boundaries of community tolerance, it concomitantly defines the boundaries of the mediation process within schools - those boundaries being largely created by people negotiating among themselves and between themselves and outside forces.
- The boundaries are also dependant on the perception or standpoint of individuals.
- The use of the zone of mediation in the model prompts an examination of individual forces and their mediation on the local context of an issue, allowing a reasoned prediction of how certain schools and school systems may decide on specific topics.
Ability Groups, Academic Achievement, African American, Detracking, Equity, Latinos, Tracking
Method of Analysis:
Case Studies, Descriptive Statistics
Unit of Analysis:
Individual, School, School District
- Case studies of four school districts in the US, all mid-sized and racially diverse, with stable demographics and sizable middle-class participation that attempt detracking.
- Two case studies, San Jose CA and Woodland Hills PA, resulted in consent decrees requiring that the districts detrack and create racially balanced classrooms.
- Two other case studies, Wilmington, DE and Rockford, IL eluded voluntary settlement and went to trial. The Wolmington plaintiffs lost, no detracking order was ever obtained, and the district remained free to track its students. The Rockford plaintiffs won, resulting in court-ordered desegregation and detracking.
- Analysis of achievement scores and course placement on students at the junior and senior high levels.
- There are three types of political processes that can inhibit or foster detracking. (1) Type-I (Original Equal Protection) actions require a showing of intentional discrimination. (2) Type-II (Pre-existing Desegregation Order) actions can only be pursued after plaintiffs have won a Type-1 action and consequently, the school district is operating under a desegregation order. (3) Type-III (recently eliminated) actions required that once a plaintiff has shown that a tracking system has a disproportionate and negative impact on a racial or ethnic group, the defendant district must respond by establishing that there exists a substantial legitimate justification or a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for the practice of tracking. If the defendant is unable to do so, the plaintiff must then show that the defendant overlooked an equally effective alternative with less discriminatory impact or that the defendant was intentionally acting towards racial discrimination.