Keeping Track or Getting Offtrack: Issues in the Tracking Of Students

  • Lynn M. Mulkey
  • Sophia Catsambis
  • Lala Carr Steelman
  • Melanie Hanes-Ramos
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE, volume 21)

Tracking is a generic term that covers ways that most educators keep track of students' academic progress by matriculating them into curricula of varying difficulty. Contests over tracking's practical and theoretical viability — getting offtrack — concern what Oakes (1985) asks about whether tracking makes most children smart or only some smart children smarter? In other words, does the school fairly advance students on the basis of their merits or does it reproduce the inequalities they bring with them at the starting gate (Argys, Rees, & Brewer, 1996; Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Oakes, 1985, 1994; Oakes, Gamoran, & Page, 1992; Slavin, 1987, 1990a, 1990b; Wheelock, 1992)?

While clearly tracking may be a well-intended practice for organizing instruction, international and cross-cultural research fails to support the belief that it improves academic achievement and the debate remains unresolved (Ansalone, 2003; Resh, 1998). In a study of thirty countries the official rationale for tracking is largely based on student ability and not to ascriptive characteristics (Marks, 2005). Other evidence from Palestinian Arab High Schools points to an ongoing disagreement over social stratification within the school remaining largely obscure and requiring further research attention to unravel the tangled threads of the issue (Mazawi, 1998).


American Sociological Review Ability Grouping American Educational Research Journal School Tracking Group Placement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynn M. Mulkey
    • 1
  • Sophia Catsambis
    • 2
  • Lala Carr Steelman
    • 3
  • Melanie Hanes-Ramos
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South CarolinaBeaufort
  2. 2.City University of New YorkQueens College and Graduate Center
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbia

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