A recent article, Modern-Day segregation in Public Schools, reveals that South Maple Orange School District White students are the benefactors of a student tracking and ability grouping system that has been in existence for decades. Nearly, six decades ago the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education deemed segregation in public schools as unconstitutional. Even though illegal, school districts have found creative ways to segregate students to ensure the protection of the income for White female teachers.

Proponents believe that tracking and ability grouping prevents teachers from being placed in difficult and sometimes embarrassing circumstances due to their ineffective teaching. For example, in a large class of students with mixed abilities, teachers may have difficulty in ensuring that all students are learning. It is assumed that students of higher academic levels will suffer due to a lack of challenging activities. Alternatively, children at lower levels will suffer because the material is to advanced and therefore continue to get left behind. In both situations, children are more likely to act out and become a disciplinary problem. Without the appropriate training the teacher will become ineffective which will eventually transfer into the classroom where the real learning must take place. This circumstance will alter the climate of the school and some teachers may choose to leave the school which in most cases will have a direct impact on the income of the White female teachers.

Opponents believe that tracking and ability grouping is paramount to racism and is ineffective for students of color. This scheme of education denies students of color opportunities afforded to White students because of the perceptions that White teachers have in regards to Blacks students.

In a recent conversation, a former parent of the South Orange Maplewood School District indicated that when her son was in the first grade he made straight A’s. When he went to the 2nd grade, he told his White female teacher that he made straight A’s in the first grade. The White teacher responded, “That is not going to happen in the 2nd grade”. This teacher was instrumental in the tracking and ability grouping and had developed an perception that Black male students need to be tracked at lower academic levels to be successful.

For this one Black male he benefited from the tracking and ability grouping because he learned how interact with not only the White kids but he was able to survive the negative perceptions that many White teachers have regarding Black students. However, it is not the same for many other Black students.

School districts should demand that White teachers have the ability to teach all students no matter what their ethnicity instead of using tracking and ability grouping. The real challenge is that many White teachers reject the culture of Black students, which hampers their ability to teach Black students.

When you challenge their inability you also challenge their livelihood. You challenge their scarce resource which is money. White families are dependent on the income that White female teachers bring home. There is an estimated 3.7 million teachers in the United States. Approximately 75% of those teachers are White females which equates to 2,775,000 millions White female teachers. The average salary for a beginning teachers is $41,000. At a minimum, White families benefit to a tune of $113 billion dollars per year.

Racism at the expense of Black children has been and continues to be the vehicle for the survival of the White family.

School districts that continue to face racism allegations must better train and alter the perceptions that White teachers have regarding Black students. This process must begin with all teachers from pre-k to 12. Teacher evaluations must reflect the teachers ability to educationally advance all students.

One way to appropriately assess teachers is to pre and post test the students. The post test must indicate that all students have progressed through the same levels. For example, if you have a ten level scale and a White student test at the third level and the Black student test at the fifth level. If the White student moves up three levels, then the Black student must move up at least three levels or vice versa.

A word of caution for school districts that desire to transform from tracking and ability grouping.

  1. Whatever strategy that you choose to implement provide time to pilot the strategy. This will provide an opportunity to work out any kinks.
  2. Use a teambuilding process that includes the input from teachers. This will add value to the transition and decrease the likelihood that teachers will reject the strategy and therefore putting the school district in the same place that it began.         

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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