Date of Award

Spring 3-18-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Chrisopher Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicole Hazel, Ed.D.

Keywords

Tracking, ability-grouping, standardized assessments, achievement gap, neo-tracing, growth mindset

Abstract

This study examined the impact of mathematics track placement on the academic achievement of

students as measured by student performance on the 2014 New Jersey High School Proficiency

Assessment (HSPA) in mathematics, and math course attainment in high school as measured by

the level of math class completed by the end of grade 12. A substantive empirical base (Goodlad

& Oakes, 1998; Slavin, 1995; Oakes, 2005; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Gamoran 2009) exists that

outlines the inequalities often associated within tracked school systems. Despite widespread

criticism, tracking remains dominant as a strategy to group students in American high schools

(Loveless 2013). Regional high schools accept students from multiple sending districts and must

by nature make placement decisions based upon, in part, middle school performance. As the

student data utilized in this study was culled from sending districts that all use traditional

tracking strategies, the measurement of student performance within the larger regional high

school may identify both effective and potentially problematic student grouping practices. The

current debate in the field of education regarding the passage of standardized assessments as a

requirement for graduation demands that the impact of course-taking patterns and tracking

decisions on performance on such assessments be more fully investigated.

This study indicated that while ninth grade course placement matters as it relates to

standardized assessment scores, explaining 27.8 % of the student performance and 17.9% of

grade twelve course attainment, other factors may positively alter an individual student academic

trajectory regardless of track placement. The evidence indicates that school districts that take

specific action to mitigate the impacts of tracking may provide students with opportunities and

support that lead to increased academic outcomes. This study contributes to the growing

research that indicates the use of standardized assessments as a sole measure of academic

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achievement is deeply flawed if not taking into consideration other factors such as course-taking

patterns, academic opportunities for advancement, and tracking decisions at the local level.

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