ERIC Number: ED318624
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1990
Reference Count: 0
Getting on the Fast Track in Mathematics: School Organizations Influences on Math Track Assignment.
Useem, Elizabeth L.
Several studies of mathematics education have singled out the early and rigid ability grouping as one of the principal reasons for mathematics underachievement in the United States. Public schools in the United States engage in extensive sorting of students into sharply differentiated curricula by the end of sixth or seventh grade. This study examines the ways in which students' assignment to ability groups in middle and secondary school mathematics are influenced by the organizational features and placement policies of the schools themselves. Specifically, this research examines the fast track in mathematics which includes only 16 to 17 percent of U.S. students and is critical for qualification for college mathematics and physical science programs. The views of college admissions officers, variations by district in accelerated mathematics courses, explanations for variations in enrollment patterns, organizational factors influencing group assignment, and several case studies are discussed. Findings indicate that there are substantial variations in ability grouping that lead to inequities and arbitrary elements in student placement and that the range of abilities found in higher level tracks among different school systems can be explained by individual characteristics, and attitudes among school administrators. Implications for women and minorities are suggested. A list of 67 references is included. (CW)
Descriptors: Ability Grouping, Administrator Attitudes, Elementary School Mathematics, Elementary Secondary Education, Females, Institutional Characteristics, Local Norms, Mathematics Education, Middle Schools, Minority Groups, Secondary School Mathematics, Student Placement, Track System (Education)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Researchers; Policymakers; Administrators; Practitioners
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Boston, MA, April 16-20, 1990).