Students from linguistic and ethnic minority backgrounds are expected to compose an increasing percentage of the U.S. population just when jobs that require higher education are expected to increase in number. Students from linguistic and ethnic minority backgrounds, however, are neither performing in high school well enough nor enrolling in college in sufficient numbers to qualify for the increasing number of jobs that will require baccalaureate degrees.
Historically, educators in the United States have responded to differences among individuals and groups by altering the content of the curriculum to which they are exposed while delivering it in essentially the same way to all. Under this “compensatory education” strategy, low-achieving students (most of whom are from lowincome, ethnic and linguistic minority backgrounds) are placed in special programs or “tracks” where the curriculum is reduced in scope, content, and pace. The hope is that underachieving students will develop basic skills, then be promoted to “regular education” or even college-bound programs.
Despite their commendable goals of attempting to compensate for deficiencies in education through remedial instruction, tracking systems that segregate underachieving students in special programs have been criticized for contributing to the very problems they were to solve. On the one hand, those students who are comfortable in the intersection between the academic curriculum and the unvarying mode by which public schools are organized have gotten a good education.