High School Segregates Students at Lunch Based on Grades Sparking Controversy

Education, News

A Tennessee high school is facing pushback for its policy of separating students at lunchtime based on their grades. Several parents have complained to the school.

Tennessee High School Sees Improvement In Graduation Rates

La Vergne High School introduced the academic intervention program in order to help the students with poorer grades improve. Students with low grades are sent to the auditorium for a “learning lab” before lunch.

One unhappy parent called the program as “civil rights violation” and “segregation,” but a spokesman for the school said that was not an appropriate description.

Though students and parents may not be happy with La Vergne High School’s separation program, it’s hard to argue with success. The graduation rate from the high school went from 77% to 90% in the two years since the program began.

U.S. Ranks In the Middle For Education

Educators celebrated the high school graduation rate reported this summer, which at 75% was the highest in 40 years. Still, many believe the U.S. public education system needs an overhaul to make even more improvements. A study comparing education results in the U.S. with 57 other countries ranked the U.S. in the middle, despite spending the most money per child per year. The U.S. ranked 17th in science, and 24th in math. It was also reported that the U.S. had one of the largest gaps between students who perform well and students who perform poorly.

Washington, D.C. School Has Success Separating Students

One D.C. school has had great success with its “ninth grade academy” program, created to give extra support to first-time 9th graders. Students repeating 9th grade for the second or third time are not allowed into the academy. First-time freshmen might be negatively influenced by the attitude of “repeater” students, so they are separated.

Principal Stephen Jackson at Dunbar High School started the program two years ago and instituted other new policies as well, including a longer school day for freshman so they can learn about how to study effectively and how to apply for college.

Many students pushed through elementary and middle schools despite bad grades find themselves struggling when they reach high school and ultimately give up. On average, only 6 out of 10 students go on to 10th grade in this district.

The program’s success for first-time 9th graders at Dunbar is remarkable: 71% of freshmen went on to become sophomores in 2012, compared to just 47% in 2011. The program was so successful that this fall, nine schools in the D.C. area implemented it.

Tracking Out of Fashion, But Effective?

The method of separating or grouping students based on academic ability is called “tracking” and has been out of favor among educators in recent decades, but research shows that tracking might be effective after all. Certainly programs at La Vergne and Dunbar showed positive signs of improving academic performance.