But I still think that the question that you're not asking yourself because it's hard, it's really hard, is that who is more deserving of the resources? You seem to firmly believe that tracking (which is exactly what Meem1029 went thru - he didn't teach himself entirely, he was in a class) is very detrimental to lower ability students. So if it's detrimental to remedial students to have tracking and detrimental to advanced students to not have tracking, what are we going to do?
Here's a couple ideas to toss around
We could have simply two levels - average and advanced.
-I'm not sure if this would solve the seeming problem of tracking for the lower students of if this is still just straight tracking.
We could do away with all advanced things and simply put people in the grades they're ready for in various subjects.
-This wouldn't cost anything, but there are some problems with it. To your thought about the very socially minded person - they can still see all their current friends in other classes and make new ones in their math class - it's not isolation for everything, just one subject. Also, advanced students are often capable of learning things at a much faster rate, so even if they were placed in the class that initially was the right level, they'd soon be looking to skip again.
We could teach teachers about advancement - both full grade and subject-wise
-This is currently a scary thing for most teachers. There's a reason it took 6 months of fighting in order for my brothers to get the approval to skip a grade. Teachers and administrators are scared
We could completely reform lower education
-Perhaps something like having the exact same curriculum as the typical class, but with more teachers or for a longer time (this cut into electives which could be an issue, especially for students who typically under perform academically)
We could keep tracking, but be very diligent about it from an early age and have it not really relate to age at all.
-Some students will come to kindergarten being able to read, some will come not knowing what an A looks like. Obviously that shouldn't be taken into account when suggesting the next class for a student. What would be wonderful is some sort of test like an IQ test but that actually measures something worthwhile and that isn't biased, but I know that's just not feasible.
Quickness of mind should really be what tracking is about. So that people can move in between the tracks, perhaps have classes every once in a while, especially right before or after typical breaks (elementary to middle, etc.) where lost material is attempted to be made up if people want to switch. This may mean going over two years of material in one year, but it would be feasible if the students really wanted. If there were not enough students for the cram class, perhaps we could attempt to have those who want to move into the higher track learn some on their own. I don't like that idea, but it's possible.
Don't make tracks about age - make it about ability! No one has to stay with their grade. If they're quick, but were late reading, then put them in the advanced class that is traditionally a year younger than they are. If they're slow, but have learned some material before, put them in the slower class a grade higher. Yes, the slower track will not cover as much material overall, but that's what has to happen in order to have the remedial students actually learn the subject matter.
I also just found a study (sorry, behind a subscription wall) that indicates that lower ability students actually do better in