A picture shows the requirements for being “On TRACK” at Hudson High School in Florida (The Washington Post)

(Update: Interview with principal, more details)

Students at a high school in Florida are now “tracked” by grade-point average, attendance and other data points in a program that determines where they can eat lunch and whether they get other perks as well.

The program has been used in high schools across the state for several years, but it just started at Hudson High School, where officials said it will encourage students not deemed to be on track to step up their performance, though some students told FOX 13 in Pasco County that that wasn’t likely to happen.

The station first reported that  students at Hudson are deemed to be “On TRACK” if they have, among other things, a grade-point average of at least 2.0 with no F’s and no more than four absences from any class. Such a designation — which comes with an ID and wristband — allows students to eat outside the cafeteria and awards them special things, such as free admission to sporting events.

Those students considered to be essentially off track must stay in the cafeteria for the entire lunch period. Students told FOX 13 that the lunchroom has been overcrowded, with some students forced to sit on the floor, because even students allowed to leave the school aren’t.

But in an interview, Principal David La Roche said that he has been in the lunchroom and there are seats for everybody, and that the program has already seen some benefits: his office has seen fewer discipline referrals by teachers since the program began and he believes attendance is up as well.

“We’re trying to motivate students to take school and life seriously,” he said, adding that the standards are “minimum.”

“We’re not asking everybody to have a 3.0,” he said.

The idea of using grades or perceived ability to “track students” is hardly new. “Tracking students,” or grouping them in class according to ability, was popular several decades ago. The practice fell out of favor when opponents of the practice said that lower- and low-achieving students actually do better when they are paired with higher-achieving students. And critics charged that low-achieving students, who were commonly from low-income families and minorities, were often shortchanged by teachers who did not have high expectations for them.

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