I teach math, and in my school there are three math tracks. Right now I'm preparing the letters I send home with my recommendations for next year. What is a diplomatic way to tell parents that their kid, who was in a higher track, has not done well enough to stay there? We use a rubric, and I am enclosing their child's results, but I also have to write a personal note, and I'm having trouble saying things like your child didn't do his homework, or worse, you child did his homework but still couldn't pass the tests and never came to get help? Anyone have some good wording?

I'm not a secondary teacher, but am the parent of a secondary school student. I honestly believe that this is information that needs to be shared with parents through a phone call (at least) or a face-to-face meeting, not through a letter.

I don't teach secondary either, although I did previously teach 8th grade and had to give honors/non-honors recommendations for high school. I agree with MrsC to do it over the phone, and word it positively ("To ensure academic success for your child, he/she would be better supported by moving to X academic track"). I had parents say they wanted their kid in honors when the child was not doing work equivalent to honors level work, and I would assure them the decision was based on district-wide guidelines that evaluate classroom performance and standardized testing. Good luck!

During middle school, I was dropped down a track in math. Actually, because the tracking system changed the year I was dropped, I was dropped two tracks -- so I had been in an just-above-average group and moved to a just-below-average group. Regarding my math education, it's maybe the best thing that ever happened to me. The constant rework of the same sorts of problems, over and over until I was blue in the face, gave me a sort of intuitive feel for math. A couple of years after being dropped, I was seeing and describing proofs that the teachers missed. A year after that, I would wander into the Calculus teacher's room every morning before school, talk to him a bit about what he was putting up on the board, and then wander the halls and help the kids in Calculus with their homework. They were thankful, and realized only that I had a better grasp of math than they did (without realizing I was in a class several levels "below" them). Between taking the PSAT and SAT, my scores went up a blistering 270 points. I only went as far as Calc II in college, but had been considering a math major (and actually, I kind of wish I had done that). Anyway, consider that most college professors don't complain that students need remediation in advanced math. Most high schools go well beyond, subject-wise, than colleges really need or want. What college professors DO complain about is when students can't do basic math and basic algebra. None of it is a race to see who knows the most math subjects by the end of high school -- it's much more about the quality of the math. Also note that some college professors will stress the necessity of revisiting old math topics, even at the college and graduate level. I think it's important that parents realize these things, because they're not intuitively obvious. It's perhaps even more important that kids realize that just because they're dropped a level, it doesn't mean they're "bad" at math -- that everyone has plateaus, everyone has some concepts they get quickly and some they have trouble with, and everyone develops at a different pace at different times in their lives. It's kind of like height (particularly for boys) -- just because a 13-year old is the shortest in his class doesn't mean he won't be the tallest in his class when he's 18.