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Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality, Second Edition 2nd Revised ed. Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300108309
ISBN-10: 0300108303
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Editorial Reviews


From reviews of the first edition: “Should be read by anyone who wishes to improve schools.”—M. Donald Thomas, American School Board Journal

“[This] engaging [book] . . . has had an influence on educational thought and policy that few works of social science ever achieve.”—Tom Loveless in The Tracking Wars

“Should be read by teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents.”—Georgia Lewis, Childhood Education

“In the twenty years since the first edition of Keeping Track, Jeannie Oakes reveals a stubborn reliance on outmoded definitions of intelligence, and thusly, ‘merit.’  These conceptions tragically result in tracking structures and practices that assure the ascendancy of only a privileged few. Oakes’ revised edition grips us yet again with her forcefulness of word, evidence, and logic. To her credit, she got it right twenty years ago and she remains on target today!”—Angela Valenzuela, University of Texas at Austin
(Angela Valenzuela)

“It has long been recognized that schools play an important role in reproducing patterns of inequality in American society. In Keeping Track, we learn how this occurs. Through a compelling analysis of the sorting practice now commonly referred to as tracking, Dr. Oakes shows why schools are too often not the source of equal opportunity that we hope them to be.”—Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., Professor, Steinhardt School of Education New York University

(Pedro Noguera)

About the Author

Jeannie Oakes is Presidential Professor and Director of the Institute for Democracy Education and Access at University of California, Los Angeles.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd Revised ed. edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300108303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300108309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An assessment is supposed to be a tool that teachers use as a means to better assist the needs of students within the context of their classroom. The problem with an assessment is when we use it as a means to judge and discriminate against struggling students, who come from communities that may or may not value the content of the state curriculum. When we use assessments to sort, class, and categorize people by rank, we end up creating divisions in society (dividing others into separate identities on a hierarchical power scale that, ultimately, proves to be oppressive). If the whole purpose of society is to create a cooperative environment that benefits everyone involved, then ranking people on hierarchical scales only increases the likelihood that people will become more competitive (and less cooperative), leading to more divisions in society, further contributing to keeping people separate (either by class, socioeconomic status, educational status, etc.). In becoming more competitive, we become a society of people who pull down others in this hierarchical structure so that we can get closer to the top (a "king of the mountain" type syndrome). The question is: do we want to live in a society where people have to kick each-others' teeth in so that they can stand on the top point of some social pyramid?

When it comes to assessing our students, we must always remember that an assessment is just a tool to help teachers better assist the students themselves (analysis should be a tool to help, not hinder). When we use assessments to rank or categorize people, we create divisions in society, leading to competition and needless conflicts that are sure to infringe upon cooperative efforts, straying from a constructive community towards one that is more destructive in regards to its own identity (where assessments are applied to people for oppressive and discriminatory purposes; and where the once helpful tool of assessment starts to be wielded around like a weapon).
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Format: Paperback
Oakes' findings are as relevant today as they were in 1985. The school system is using tracking to encourage social reproduction and keep the rich rich and the poor poor. As teachers, yes we are challenged by students of differing abilities in our classroom but a little inconvenience on our part is worth preventing the disastrous consequences of tracking. If you believe that all children should be given the chance to learn and succeed, then this book will be helpful to you.
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Format: Paperback
Jeannie Oakes has made a career out of studying in-school stratification. Keeping Track is her best known account of how tracking is done and its likely consequences. The book is loaded with interesting illustrations, but it's also surprisingly short on statistical rigor. After all, it's one thing to show a simple bivariate association between ethnicity and track placement, and quite another to demonstrate the persistence of that association in the presence of a few obvious controls, even if we have to resort to the dubious confounding factor IQ. At the very least this would lend credibility to her work.

More important, I think, is Oakes' failure to emphatically acknowledge that what goes on inside schools is determined, in large measure, by the context of schooling. More than ten years before publication of the first edition of Oakes' book, Bowles and Gintis' Schooling in Capitalist America made a strong case for an unwitting outcome of schooling: to reprocduce and legitimate an inequitable social class structure from one generation to the next.

The lesson for Oakes is that she shouldn't expect a stratified context to give rise to unstratified schools. Schools are arenas of status group conflict, and the stratified nature of schooling will be supported by those on top -- it serves their children's interests. The respectful and deferential working class has little or no clout. So, if you want to change the organization of schooling, change the organization of its social context. A monumental task, but the only one that will do the job.

Nevertheless, Oakes' account of the differential experiences of students by class and ethnicity is extremely informative and quite interesting.
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