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race effects on students' track mobility in high school

race effects on students' track mobility in high school -...

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Social Psychology of Education 1: 1-24, 1996. 1996 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. Race Effects on Students' Track Mobility in High School* MAUREEN T, HALLINAN University of Notre Dame (Received 19 June 1995; Accepted in final form 13 July 1995) Abstract. Race effects on track mobility are hypothesized on the basis of racial differences in initial track placement, learning opportunities, course preferences, and academic guidance. Race differences in patterns of track mobility are observed in a large, longitudinal survey that follows students from ninth through twelfth grade. Initial track placements and changes in track over the school year and between school years are described. Multivariate analyses associate race with the likelihood of changing track and the direction of the track change. Black students are less likely than white students to move to Honors and Advanced tracks in Mathematics but more likely than whites to move from the Basic to the Regular track in English. Black students are considerably more likely than whites to drop out of the tracking system in English and Mathematics, except for black students in Advanced English and in Honors and Advanced Mathematics. The results of this study point to tracking as an organizational characteristic of. schools that can provide students with unequal access to the curriculum and, therefore, to learning opportunities by race. Close monitoring of track changes is recommended to insure that tracking promotes the academic achievement of all students. Tracking is the assignment of students to instructional groups on the basis of ability. In contemporary secondary schools, a typical tracking structure consists of Basic, Regular, Honors and Advanced tracks. Some large schools may include a Very Basic track, while small schools may have only Regular and Honors, or Basic, Regular and Honors tracks. Generally, schools track students in English and Mathematics and often in other academic subjects as well. The practice of tracking in middle and secondary schools is highly controversial. Advocates claim that tracking is an efficient and effective way of organizing students for instruction because tracking enables teachers to target instruction to the ability level of their students. They also believe that tracking promotes a students' self-esteem by providing a peer group against which students can reasonably evaluate their own abilities. Critics of tracking argue that the practice creates unequal learning opportunities for students who differ by ability. They believe that students assigned to the lower * This research was funded by Grant #R117E10139-01 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement and by National Science Foundation Grant No.
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