Hallinan, Maureen T.
The Organization of Students for Instruction in the Middle School
University of Notre Dame
The structure of tracking systems and the process of assigning students to tracks for instruction at a critical point in schooling, the middle school.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
Sociology of Education
Vol. 65, No. 2, pp. 114-127
- The number of tracks in schools apparently is not determined by differences in the population distributions across schools.
- Although the size of tracks in these schools appears to be sensitive to the ability distribution of the student population, it is more heavily influenced by organizational factors that are independent of characteristics of the students' achievement distribution.
- The organizational constraints that create across-track differences in homogeneity are a source of unequal learning opportunities.
- Another consequence of the influence of organizational factors on the tracks structure is that students at the same track level differ in ability across schools.
- Organizational effects no the track structure make mobility across tracks difficult.
- A relationship between organizational factors and track structure results in differences both within and across schools in the relevant characteristics of tracks, in the likelihood of students being assigned to a given track, and in the permanence of the track assignments.
- The strongest background influence on placement was SES.
- Older students were more likely to be assigned to lower tracks and girls in the largest school district were more likely to be assigned to lower English tracks.
- If lower tracks are associated with fewer learning opportunities, then poorer students, older students, and girls are disadvantaged by tracking. This disadvantage becomes exacerbated over time as students actually fall behind their peers, but because they have been deprived of equal opportunities to learn.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Ability Groups, English, Middle School, Tracking
Method of Analysis:
Unit of Analysis:
Classroom, School, Student
- A total of 1,669 students that come from over 4,000 students in seven public, eight Catholic and two private schools in two Midwestern cities who were followed from seventh through the twelfth grade.
- Population is about 21% Black, 75% Whites and 4 % others.
- Information was gathered at the school, grade, class, and individual levels.
- DV: Number and size of eight grade tracks, track assignments at the beginning of 8th grade; changes in the track assignments over the academic year; background characteristics of the student
- IV: History of tracking policies and assignment practices; standardized Test scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills taken in seventh grade; and academic grades at the end of the seventh grade.