Educational ‘Detracking,’ Explained

A student complete an Algebra II assignment in San Francisco, Calif. (Photo By Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

School districts across the U.S. are constantly asking how to close the gaps in academic achievement and opportunities among students.

More and more leaders believe the solution lies in “detracking,” the practice of integrating students of different academic abilities in the same classes in the name of “educational equity.” But such practices are meeting opposition.

How do schools ‘detrack’?

In 2014, San Francisco United School District (SFUSD) decided to no longer offer Algebra I courses in middle schools. Instead, all students would take Algebra I together in ninth grade, their first year of high school. In place of the class, the school district designed a course containing elements of algebra specifically for eighth graders—available to all students regardless of ability—intended to universally prepare students for algebra when they enter high school. 

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