Unpacking tracking: the role of instruction, teacher beliefs and supplemental courses in the relationship between tracking and student achievement
Schmidt, Rebecca Anne
This project uses a large multi-state dataset to address three aspects of the relationship between tracking and student achievement that have been understudied. Chapter II establishes that rigorous instruction is substantially more common in high track classes. Rigorous instruction is defined as teaching that emphasizes justification and reasoning, and thus this gap between track levels represents a rationing of high status knowledge. However, this type of instruction only mediates a small proportion of the relationship between track level and achievement on state achievement tests. Chapter III finds that a developmental view of ability is significantly associated with student achievement. This conception of ability sees all students as capable of rigorous mathematics with the correct supports. Students in untracked settings whose teachers describe continuing to include low-achieving students in rigorous mathematics are predicted to out-score tracked students. Chapter IV shows that one support for low-achieving students outside the regular classroom, double dose instruction, can actually negatively impact their achievement, depending on the characteristics of the program. While some characteristics were associated with positive student achievement, only four schools employed these characteristics. In conclusion, I argue that each of these analyses provides a small window into policy and research direction for the future. If schools wish to support all students to succeed, they must emphasize rigorous mathematics not just among the highest-achieving, advocate for a developmental view of ability that sees all students as capable of success in this type of mathematics, and consider how the implementation of supports for students can be as important as the adoption of the supports as policy.