Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the authors examined the effect of tracking on the mathematics achievement of 3,900 tenth graders. They found that tracking affects test scores: Higher-track students (who receive more educational resources, e.g., more-experienced teachers) performed better than would be predicted if they had been assigned to a heterogeneous class. Placement in a lower track was associated with a decrease; placement in an average class with a small increase. Thus, although students in the lower tracks would realize achievement gains in a heterogeneous class, this gain would be at the expense of higher-track students. These results raise a fundamental dilemma for educators and policymakers grappling with ways to improve the nation's schools. Whether to detrack, then, depends on how our society weighs the competing notions of equity and efficiency.
Originally published in: Phi Delta Kappan, v. 77, no. 3, November 1995 and v. 77, no. 6, February 1996, pp. 210-215, 442-444.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.