Ability Tracking: What Role for the Courts?

Publisher: Education Law Reporter, 163 (2)
Page Numbers: 565-571

School boards and other local-level educational policymakers have, in the past, had considerable discretion in crafting curriculum in response to perceived local needs. Accordingly, schools often have different programs, or "tracks," that are intended to prepare students for, e.g., college or a vocation. But state-level policymakers have begun prescribing detailed standards to be taught by all schools and mastered by all students. And courts have begun interpreting state constitutional adequacy mandates to require that students be provided with an opportunity to learn the state standards. In this note, the author presents an overview of legal precedent concerning court challenges to ability tracking, a practice often favored by local decision-makers. He then summarizes the results of some of his own research and discusses some new developments on the legal front, concerning the possible legal requirement that schools provide adequacy at every level within a structure of curriculum differentiation. Finally, the author discusses some implications for practitioners.