Date of Award

Spring 3-18-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Chrisopher Tienken, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicole Hazel, Ed.D.


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


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 achievement is deeply flawed if not taking into consideration other factors such as course-taking atterns, academic opportunities for advancement, and tracking decisions at the local level.