“tracking: A common instructional practice that assigns students to courses or curriculum programs with others who have similar academic goals or skills. Tracking often occurs as a result of student self-selection into programs or courses of varying levels of difficulty. In the past, tracking referred to the two separate paths that students chose to follow: college or a vocation. Currently, however, the term tracking is used to almost interchangeably with the term ability grouping and applies to all grade levels. As currently used, it refers to a decision by the school to place students in different classes according to their ability levels, the rationale being that it enables teachers to provide the same level of instruction to each group. This practice is criticized, however, by those who fear that students in low-level ability groups (or tracks) never gain access to challenging instruction.”
Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.