Educational Matchmaking

Academic and Vocational Tracking in Comprehensive High Schools

by Jeannie Oakes, Molly Selvin, Lynn A. Karoly, Gretchen Guiton


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Reports the results of a study that compared three urban comprehensive senior high schools to better understand the rationale and processes that underlie schools' course offerings and students' coursetaking. All three schools made assumptions about their students that were related, in large part, to students' race and family socioeconomic status. An analysis of transcripts showed that low-income and disadvantaged minority students took more vocational courses, and that heavy vocational education participation was partially consistent with respondents' beliefs that such a program is best suited for students who are not expected to be successful in academic programs. Vocational programs are perceived negatively within the schools and are unlikely to receive school-level support or staff-development resources. The study recommends that schools press forward with experimentation and the evaluation of possibilities relating to a "strong" version of integrated academic and vocational education.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1


  • Chapter 2

    A Close Look at Schools and Students: Our Research Strategy

  • Chapter 3

    Curriculum Offerings and Student Assignments: Findings from Our Field Work

  • Chapter 4

    Who Takes Vocational Education? Findings from Student'S Transcripts

  • Chapter 5

    Who Takes College-Prep? Findings from Student Transcripts

  • Chapter 6

    An Eclectic Explanation of Matching Students to Curriculum

  • Appendix A

    Additional Characteristics of the Class of 1988

  • Appendix B

    Vocational Course Categories

  • Appendix C

    Supplementary Tables on Vocational Participation

  • Appendix D

    Methods and Results from the Logistic Analyses

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