Read TEACHER TRACKING: text version


Center for Research on the Context of Teaching Stanford University 1990

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Boston, April 16-20, 1990. The research was supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (Grant No. G0087C0235) to the Center for Research on the Context of Secondary School Teaching, School of Education, Stanford University. The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the supporting agencies.

Abstract This article examines the prevalence, causes and consequences of teacher tracking in U. S. high schools -- or the practice of assigning teachers to predominantly low-track or high-track courses and students. Using High School and Beyond data for 293 public schools and 7,456 teachers included in the Administrator and Teacher Survey, the study estimates that approximately one-third of U. S. high school teachers are tracked. However, the proportion of tracked teachers in a high school varies considerably according to size and social diversity of the student population and faculty. The national survey data corroborate ethnographic evidence that teacher tracking generates inequalities in organizational resources available to teachers and that track assignment affects a teacher's sense of instructional efficacy. Regardless of causal direction, teachers of low-track students report less organizational support and feel less able to promote student learning than their colleagues with high-track or mixed teaching assignments.

Student tracking is a long-standing interest in research on educational attainment and increasingly a focus of research on secondary school organization. In the educational attainment literature, students' track placement in U.S. high schools has been shown to predict educational outcomes independent of family origins and prior academic achievement (cf. Alexander, Cook and McDill 1978; Gamoran 1987; Jencks et al. 1972). Research on U. S. school organization has analyzed student tracking as a problem of social mobility in organizations, noting limited opportunity for students to move from one academic track to another (Rosenbaum 1976). More recently, student tracking has been studied as a problem of unequal learning opportunities among U.S. high school students, with studies documenting student track differences in course-taking patterns and in course content (Gamoran 1987; Oakes 1985). The overwhelming evidence from this long and elaborate line of research is that students' track placement matters for their educational outcomes. Student tracking generates educational inequality through some combination of allocation effects and differential learning opportunities tied to course-taking patterns and to the content of instruction in tracked courses. Largely missing from this body of literature is teachers' place in the system of stratified classes and resources they bring to classroom instruction. This issue becomes pressing with evidence of "watered down" instruction in low-track classes (see particularly Oakes, 1985). Do low-track students have the same teachers as high-track students in a high school and thus teachers with the same professional skills; or, are teachers differentiated according to the students they teach? Do teachers of low-track classes have resources for effective teaching equivalent to those of high-track teachers? These questions are critical if we are to understand mechanisms by which educational inequalities are reproduced, or exacerbated, in high schools. An exception to the neglect of teachers in the student tracking literature is Merrilee Finley's (1984) ethnographic study of the professional culture of a tracked academic program in a suburban high school. Her study suggested that teacher tracking is an important source of differential learning opportunities of tracked students. It revealed processes by which teachers are assigned to tracked classes and the differential social statuses, collegial and administrative support, and professional self-efficacy of low- and high-tracked teachers.


The present study extends the nascent line of research on teacher tracking and its implications for the distribution of educational resources within American high schools. National survey data are used to estimate the prevalence of teacher tracking in U.S. high schools and to assess arguments on causes and consequences of teacher tracking derived from Merrilee Finley's (1984) research and from the broader literature on inequalities within work organizations. THE TEACHER TRACKING PHENOMENON Merrilee Finley's (1984) study of the teaching culture in a tracked English department of an integrated suburban high school is the best research evidence we have on the phenomenon of teacher tracking. It described the student context, professional values and organizational processes that generate teacher tracking in Suburban High School's English department and the consequences for teachers of their "track assignments." Finley reported that among 25 English teachers in the department at the time of her study, four taught only high-track classes and nine taught only low-track classes; thus, roughly half of the teachers in the department were tracked according to the academic ability level of the students they taught. The extent of student and teaching tracking in the department evolved over a period of ten years as increasing numbers of minority students were bused to the middle-class suburban school and as the structure of teaching produced increasing isolation of teachers in their classrooms. A remedial track was added to the departments tracking system as the proportion of bused students neared its 25% level at the time of the study. The study documented considerable consensus among teachers on the rewards of having "able and willing" students and on the importance of student ability grouping (see also Oakes 1985; Powell, Farrar and Cohen 1985; Sizer 1984). It described competition among teachers in this middle-class suburban school for "good teaching schedules," i.e., class assignments with the fewest low-track and the most high-track classes possible, and strategies they used to increase their job rewards derived from teaching preferred classes (Finley 1984, pp. 237-239). Most important for analyses of inequalities in students' educational opportunities were observed consequences for teachers of their own track assignments. On the basis of her case study, Finley concluded that the respect accorded teachers by their colleagues was related to the ability level they teach ­ that they "take on the status of their clientele." (1984, 2

p. 239). Teachers' relative success in obtaining high-track classes, she argued, established their positions in the status system of the school. In the school culture, teachers' track placement was regarded as an indicator of their professional competence. The high-track English teachers in this study were more involved in professional development activities and subject area networks in the district and in departmental and school affairs. Administrators regard these teachers more favorably, both because they were more active school citizens and because they were visible and acquire good reputations with the top students and their parents who made the most demands upon the school (Finley 1984, p. 240). High-track teachers in Suburban were privileged in terms of the respect and support they receive from colleagues and administrators, as well as in the rewards they derived from teaching motivated, high-achieving students. In contrast, the low-track English teachers were seen by their colleagues as low in competence -- an attitude framed by the belief in meritocracy as the [legitimate] basis for teachers' course assignments. Finley's study documented the self doubt of teachers with "undesirable schedules" and the dilemma they faced when students' positive evaluations were viewed by colleagues as a sign of "watered down" curriculum. Along with their low-track students, these teachers were marginal in the school's social and organizational system; many were demoralized. This ethnography of a high school English department suggests that teacher tracking is a source of considerable inequality among high school teachers in terms of their access to professional support from subject area colleagues and school administrators, as well as their access to rewards of teaching achievement-oriented students. These resources are important for teachers' professional growth, for their capacity and motivation to perform well, and for their sense of teaching competence (cf. Griffin 1990; Lieberman and Miller 1984; Little 1982, 1990). All of these teacher variables should affect, over time, the quality of teaching -- and thus student learning opportunities -- in tracked high school subjects. CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF TEACHER TRACKING While Finley predicted that "processes discovered at Suburban operate widely" (1984, p. 242), evidence of the prevalence of teacher tracking among U.S. high schools is lacking -- as are estimates of its effect on teachers' status in their schools and on their sense of professional efficacy.


This paper takes up where Finley's study left off. First, we estimate the prevalence of teacher tracking among U.S. high school teachers and schools using High School & Beyond (HS&B) data on the proportions of U.S. public school teachers assigned to teach mainly the lowest-achieving students vs. those assigned to teach mainly the highest-achieving students in their schools. We also estimate the distribution of U.S. high schools in terms of proportions of teachers tracked within them. This study then examines causes and consequences of teacher tracking in high schools, translating Finley's (1984) qualitative observations into arguments or hypotheses for quantitative testing. The first line of analysis concerns school conditions that may generate teacher tracking and the effects of teacher tracking on the distribution of organizational resources among teachers in a high school. The second concerns consequences for individual teachers of their organizational status in a school. Organizational Inequalities in the High School We test two arguments regarding tendencies of high schools to generate inequalities in teachers' organizational statuses: 1) Social diversity among students and among teachers increases the likelihood of teacher tracking; 2) Teacher tracking yields inequalities in the distribution of organizational resources among teachers. These arguments are based partly in Finley's study of trends in student and teacher tracking in Suburban High School and her observations of status and resource inequalities among tracked teachers. They are suggested also by evidence that social diversity among students in a school, particularly in terms of race and ethnicity, explain levels of formal and informal student tracking among high schools (cf. Sanders 1989; Sorensen and Hallinan 1984). To the extent that social inequalities among students -- in social-class backgrounds and in race and ethnic origins -- are incorporated into a high school, we would expect increased student differentiation and tracking, increased competition among teachers for "favorable" class assignments, and increased prevalence of teacher tracking in a high school. The broader organizational literature suggests, further, that social inequalities among teachers may be an additional source of teacher tracking. Research in a wide range of organizational settings provides evidence that social characteristics of employees -- gender and race/ethnicity -- can be a basis for allocation of workers to different jobs with unequal


rewards (cf. Baron and Bielby 1985; Talbert and Bose 1977). We thus should consider effects of teachers' status differentiation on teacher tracking within U.S. high schools. We also have learned from organizational research that marginal positions create problems for incumbents' access to organizational resources valuable for job performance (cf. Kanter 1977). To the extent that low-track class assignments are regarded as marginal jobs in the high school, low-track teachers are likely to be disadvantaged in obtaining valued organizational resources -- such as influence over school decisions, colleague respect and help, and administrators' material and moral support. Consequences of Organizational Inequalities among Teachers We test the argument that a teacher's track assignment and organizational status affect her/his sense of instructional efficacy -- the belief that one's teaching makes a difference for student learning. We use a broad definition of "instructional efficacy" in this study to refer to a teacher's feeling of being successful with his/her classes, feeling that time and effort devoted to teaching is worthwhile, feeling that students in his/her classes are capable of learning. As such, our use of the construct encompasses notions of self-judged competence, persistence, and locus of control over educational outcomes. We want to know, in particular, whether or not teachers assigned to low-track students across the nation's high schools are less likely than their colleagues in similar schools and with similar backgrounds to feel that they can, should try to, and do affect student learning outcomes. If so, we will have provided considerable support for Finley's suggestion that teacher tracking exacerbates educational inequalities based on student tracking. DATA AND METHODS This study uses data from the High School & Beyond (HS&B) national longitudinal program which began in 1980 in a representative sample of U.S. secondary schools.1 The Teacher and Administrator Survey (ATS) conducted in 1984 provides a source of data on

1 The High School and Beyond (HS&B) program, sponsored by the National Center for Educational Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, is a national longitudinal study of individuals who were high school sophomores and seniors in 1980. In the 1980 base year, survey data and achievement data were collected from 30,030 high school sophomores and 28,240 high school seniors in 1015 schools. At two-year intervals, the same students have completed follow-up questionnaires. A school questionnaire was completed by the principal in the base year and in 1982. In 1984, the Administrator and Teacher Survey (ATS) was conducted for a 50% subsample of the HS&B schools (yielding a sample N of 457 participating schools). This survey was designed to obtain data on working conditions that distinguish more and less effective schools. The ATS supplement to HS&B included a survey of up to 30 randomly sampled teachers in each school and asked questions about their teaching assignments, workplace conditions and personal and professional backgrounds. (See Newmann, Rutter and Smith 1989 for a more detailed description of the purposes and nature of the ATS survey).


teachers' class/student assignments within a school, their experiences within the school's social and organizational system, and their sense of instructional efficacy. The school sample for our study is all of the public schools included in the ATS supplement survey conducted in 1984 that had at least 10 teacher respondents and over 50% response rates for sampled teachers (school N= 293). The school-level analyses use ATS school weights to approximate a nationally representative sample of U. S. public high schools (weighted school N = 7,264). The teacher sample is a random sample of up to 30 teacher respondents in each of the ATS schools that meet the school selection criterion and who responded to the question on student composition of their classes (teacher N == 7,456). Three different HS&B data files were used to construct measures for the study: the 1982 student file, the 1982 school file, and the ATS teacher file. Variables and Measures Variables analyzed in this study are conceptualized and measured at both the individual teacher level and the school level. We describe the individual-level variables and measures first, because some of them are used to construct measures of school-level variables. Individual-level Variables: Teacher track. This concept distinguishes those teachers assigned to teach predominantly low-level classes and those assigned to teach predominantly high-level classes from their colleagues in a school assigned to average classes or a mixture of high and low classes. To construct a measure of this variable, we used teachers' responses to the following question on the ATS Teacher Questionnaire (ATS #10): "Compare the academic ability of the students you have taught since the beginning of the current school year to the average for the school. What percentage of your students have been above the school average?" (Response categories were: 0-9 percent; 10-29 percent; 30-49 percent; 50-69 percent; 70-89 percent; 90-100 percent.) We created two dummy variables to represent teachers' track assignments: Low-track = 1 if 0-9% students taught are above the school average; High-track = 1 if 70-100% students taught are above the school average. The reference group is all other, untracked teachers (with 10-69% students above the school average). 6

Instructional Efficacy. The dependent variable for our teacher-level analysis is an 30point scale (alpha reliability = .64) based on the sum of teachers' responses, on a 6point Likert scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree), to the following statements: "I sometime feel it's a waste of my time to do my best as a teacher" (reverse coded); "The attitudes and habits students bring to my class greatly reduce their chances of success" (reverse coded) ; "My success or failure in teaching students is due primarily to factors beyond my control" (reverse coded) ; "Many of the students I teach are not capable of learning the material I am supposed to teach" (reverse coded) ; "To what extent do you feel successful in providing the kind of education you would like to provide to most of your students?" Teacher's organizational status. Conceptually, this variable refers to a teacher's access to professional and organizational resources, relative to his/her colleagues in the same school. To construct measures of this construct, we compared a teacher's responses to various survey questions about teachers influence in the school, control over instruction, collegial support, and administrator responsiveness to school means (average teacher ratings). Our measures of organizational status are within-school Z scores for each teacher on indices of: "Policy Influence" (24-point scale), "Instructional Control" (24-point scale) "Principal Responsiveness" (36-point scale) and "Teacher Community" (42-point scale). (See Appendix I for survey items used to construct these indices.) The Z-score indicates where a teacher's rating on the index falls in the distribution of teacher ratings for the same school. Teacher's social and professional status. Gender status: dummy variable (female = 1); Minority status: dummy variable (black or Hispanic = 1); Education level: 9point scale of degrees obtained; Training in subject area: 8-point scale of number of courses in subject area most frequently taught; Teaching experience: years teaching at any grade level.


School-level Variables: Teacher tracking. The extent to which teachers in a school are assigned to high- or low-track classes and students is represented by the percent of ATS teachers in the school coded as high-track or low-track (per operational definition above). Organizational inequalities. Conceptually, this variable refers to unequal access among teachers in a school to valued resources. We consider teacher influence over school decisions, instructional control, principal responsiveness, and collegial support as organizational resources valuable for a teachers' job performance and professional growth. Our measures of organizational inequality represent divergence within a school among teachers' reports on these dimensions of their work environment: standard deviations (sd) of within-school teacher scores on the indices constructed for "Policy Influence," "Instructional Control," "Principal Responsiveness," and "Teacher Community." Student social composition. Average student SES: composite of father's education and occupation, mother's education and occupation, and home resources, as reported by HS&B students and averaged for the school; Percent minority: percent black and Hispanic students, as reported in the HS&B school questionnaire. Teacher social composition. Gender composition: percent women among ATS teachers in a school; Percent minority: percent black and Hispanic teachers among ATS teachers. School size. Student enrollment in grades 9-12, as reported in the HS&B school questionnaire, is used as a control variable in all our analyses to represent capacity to track students, and thus teachers. Average organizational conditions. School averages of teacher scores on the "Policy Influence," "Instructional Control," "Principal Responsiveness," and "Teacher Community" indices. These measures are used as control variables in the teacherlevel analysis of instructional efficacy. In addition, average teacher scores on an index of "student disruption" (18-point scale) are included as a control in this analysis to represent a school climate factor that may constraint teachers' sense of efficacy. Stages and Methods of Analysis We first estimate the prevalence of teacher tracking among U.S. public school teachers and schools using our operational definitions of high- and low-track teaching assignments for teachers in schools included in the ATS national survey. We report the 8

percentages of ATS teachers classified as low, middle/mixed, and high track. We also report distributions of schools on the teacher tracking variable (% teachers tracked), using ATS school weights to approximate a nationally representative sample of U. S. public high schools. The overall school mean and standard deviation of teacher tracking are also reported. The second stage of analysis is conducted at the school level to assess social and organizational correlates of teacher tracking across U. S. public high schools. We first estimate effects of student and faculty social composition on the extent of teacher tracking in a high school, after controlling for school size. Next, we estimate effects of teacher tracking on organizational inequalities among teachers within a school, with controls for student and teacher composition variables and school size. We use OLS regression techniques and ATS school weights to estimate models for a representative sample of U. S. public high schools. The third stage of analysis is conducted at the individual teacher level to assess affects of teachers' track assignments and organizational statuses on their sense of instructional efficacy. Five separate regression models predicting instructional efficacy are estimated: Model I with track placement only. Model II with organizational status variables only. Model III with both combined. Model IV with track and organizational status variables plus controls for teacher social and professional status variables, and Model V with additional controls for average school organization conditions. By comparing results of these successive regression models we are able to see the relative importance of theoretically different variables for explaining variation in teachers' sense of instructional efficacy and, particularly, to assess teacher track effects with controls for alternative kinds of individual and school variables. PREVALENCE OF TEACHER TRACKING We estimate that just over one-third of U. S. public school teachers are assigned to teach either low- or high-track students in their schools. Table 1A shows the distribution of ATS teachers among the track categories we defined using fairly conservative cutting points for the achievement level of students taught relative to the school average. [Table 1 here]


Nearly one-fourth (24%) of the teachers surveyed teach predominantly low-track classes and/or elective courses taken by low-achieving students. A smaller proportion of teachers, 14%, are assigned to teach classes of predominantly high-achieving students within their school. Given the general pattern of approximately 25% of high school students in both high (academic) and 25% in low (remedial or vocational) tracks, it appears that low-track students are taught largely by teachers assigned only to low-track classes. Teacher assignments to high-track classes appear to be more distributed among faculties, though a large proportion of them are taught by "high track" teachers.2 Table 1B shows the distribution of U. S. high schools on percentages of teachers tracked within them. In the "average" high school, 34% of teachers are assigned to either high or low level classes. However, variation among schools in tendency to track teachers is substantial, as indicated by the standard deviation and distribution. In nearly 20% of U.S. high schools less than one-fourth of the faculty is tracked; while in 11% of the schools more than half of the teachers are tracked. SCHOOL ORGANIZATION CORRELATES OF TEACHER TRACKING What accounts for the differential tendencies of U. S. high schools to track teachers? Clearly, school size is one factor; student grouping by academic achievement is constrained in small schools, thus limiting the potential for teacher tracking. Given evidence that social and economic diversity among students promotes student tracking, a school's student composition also represents a potential for teacher tracking. Apart from these limiting conditions, we expect that social status inequalities within a school faculty contribute to teacher tracking. This expectation derives from evidence of gender and race inequalities in job assignments within organizations and occupations, combined with evidence that high school teachers assign differential values to teaching low and high achieving students.

Gamoran's (1987) analysis of student tracking with the HS&B data indicates that, in 1980, 31% of the HS&B sophomores reported being in an academic track and 21% in a vocational track; in 1982, 33% of these students (then seniors) reported being in an academic track and 23% in a vocational track. These estimates of student track placement suggest a greater differential in the tendencies of low- and high- track students to be taught by tracked teachers.



Predictors of Teacher Tracking The first column of Table 2 shows correlations between the extent of teacher tracking in a high school and student and teacher composition variables; the second column shows estimated effects of the social composition variables on teacher tracking with school size controlled. The correlations show that teacher tracking is less extensive in schools with relatively high-SES student populations and more extensive in schools with relatively high proportions of minority students and with relatively high proportions of minority and women teachers. As predicted, social diversity of the student body and of the teaching faculty is associated with greater levels of teacher tracking in a high school. [Table 2 here] Results of the regression analysis indicate that each of these factors, except faculty race and ethnic diversity, independently predicts teacher tracking tendencies among U.S. high schools. Given a very high correlation of minority representation in student bodies and faculties (r= .84), the student composition variable is sufficient to explain the zero- order correlation of percent minority faculty with teacher tracking. (The individual-level correlation between a teacher's minority status and track assignment is moderate (.10 with low- track and -.07 with high-track.) Apart from school size and student composition, gender composition of the faculty appears to be a significant factor in teacher tracking, with higher proportions of women yielding higher proportions of tracked teachers. Consistent with patterns of gender inequality in job assignments across a wide range of organizations, women teachers are more likely to be assigned to low-track classes (individual level r= .10) -- though they are not less likely to be assigned to high-track classes (r= -.01). We now test the argument that teacher tracking generates inequalities in teachers' access to organizational resources. Teacher Tracking Effects on Organizational Inequalities Table 3 shows results of four separate regression analyses of within-school discrepancies in teacher reports of (respectively): policy influence, instructional control, principal support and colleague support. Each model estimates teacher tracking effects on the degree of discrepancy in teachers' reported working conditions, with controls for student and faculty social composition and school size. 11

[Table 3 here] The extent of teacher tracking in a school shows the expected effect on organizational inequality for each kind of resource analyzed. Estimated effects are greatest for principal responsiveness and least for instructional control. This pattern of results suggests that track assignments of teachers has greatest implications for resources most removed from the classroom, particularly for the unequal administrative support they receive. Individual-level data allow further interpretation of the school patterns.3 Correlations of a teacher's track assignment and within-school Z-scores on the organizational measures indicate that low track teachers report significantly lower levels of administrative support than their school colleagues (r= -.05). Further, low and high track teachers differ significantly from untracked colleagues in reported influence over school policies (rs= -.06 and .06, respectively); and high track teachers report greater levels of instructional control (r= .08). A teacher's track assignment is not associated with reported level of collegial support, in spite of evidence from the between-school analysis that tracking increases inequality in teacher reports of colleague support. Patterns of effects shown for gender and race/ethnic composition of school faculties are equivocal. A detailed discussion and interpretation of each effect is beyond the scope of the present analysis.4 However, controls for these variables in the present analysis assure us that observed teacher tracking effects on organizational inequalities are not spurious due to social inequalities among teachers or among students. While social diversity in the school appears to enhance teacher tracking, the track differentiation of teachers' jobs independently predicts divergence in their reported working conditions. Between-school variance on the inequality measures explained by these models is quite low, particularly for colleague support. Nevertheless, these results lend support to the argument that teacher tracking within a school faculty is a source of other kinds of

These data are not shown here. Correlation matrices of individual-level data and school-level data may be obtained on request from the author. 4 While school-level effects of social inequalities on teacher tracking were consistent with individual-level correlations between teachers' social statuses and track assignments, this is not the case for inequalities in organizational resources. Not only do social composition effects differ according to the organizational inequality being analyzed, the ecological correlations are not consistent with the individual-level correlations. More refined analyses of these patterns are required to provide sensible interpretations of the regression coefficients reported in Table 3 and are being undertaken as a separate study.



organizational inequalities among teachers. Discrepancies in teachers' reports of their influence over school decisions, their control over instructional choices, the supportiveness of their principal and of colleagues are consistently greater in schools with relatively high proportions of teachers tracked into high and low-level classes. IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHERS' SENSE OF INSTRUCTIONAL EFFICACY We now assess the argument that a teacher's track assignment and organizational status in a school affect his or her sense of instructional efficacy -- the belief that teaching efforts can and do promote student learning. Given that teacher tracking affects organizational inequalities at the school level, as shown above, we consider the possibility that track assignment affects teachers' sense of efficacy through its effects on organizational status. In other words, the implications of track assignment for a teacher's access to resources valuable for teaching may undermine instructional success and sense of efficacy. We thus consider effects of a teacher's track assignment and organizational status on instructional efficacy separately and jointly. If track assignment affects instructional efficacy because of its implications for organizational resources, then track effects should disappear with controls for the organizational status variables. The first three regression models reported in Table 4 show that track assignment and organizational status independently predict a teacher's instructional efficacy. High-track teachers are significantly higher on the instructional efficacy index; low-track teachers are significantly lower. In addition, a teacher's status on all four organization dimensions helps to predict his or her level of instructional efficacy. Together, the tracking and organizational status variables explain nearly one-fifth (18%) of the variance in teachers' instructional efficacy. [Table 4 here] We next add controls for the teachers' social and professional background. This helps us to evaluate the possibility that observed track and organizational status effects on instructional efficacy can be explained by differences in teacher competence and/or social status that affect their track assignment, organizational status and judgments of their own instructional efficacy. If this is the case, then controls for a teacher's social and professional statuses should substantially diminish track and organizational status effects.


Model IV of Table 4 shows no support for the spuriousness argument: regression coefficients are essentially unchanged with the controls, and there is no increment in explained variance.5 Finally, we introduce controls for student composition and average organizational conditions that might explain differential instructional efficacy among teachers between schools and that might account for observed track effects. Any of these school variables could affect teachers' tendencies to see their students in a more or less favorable light -- thus affecting both their evaluations of student achievement levels in their classes and their instructional efficacy.6 In particular, the general level of student disruption in the school could affect teachers' tendencies to report teaching low-achieving students in their school, i.e., biasing the low-track classifications upward in disorderly schools and downward in orderly schools, as well as their tendencies to feel efficacious in working with students. Model V in Table 4 shows persistent effects of track assignment and organizational status on a teacher's sense of instructional efficacy after the school-level controls are added. The variance explained increases to 25% (an increment of 7%) with the added predictors of student SES, average level of instructional control, teacher community (support) and student disruption in the school. Clearly, the differences in teachers' track and organizational resources within a school are important predictors of their relative judgments of their own instructional efficacy, regardless of the student composition and general organizational climate of the school. DISCUSSION This study suggests that U. S. high school teachers are tracked according to the achievement level of students they teach in proportions very near those of students grouped into academic, general and vocational or remedial tracks. While high-track teachers appear

This finding is consistent with results shown by Rowan, Raudenbush and Kang (1989), using HLM techniques, of an independent effect of student achievement level taught within a school (a continuous variable based on the item used in this study to specify teachers' track placement) on teacher "morale." Their morale measure includes two of the four ATS items used to construct our efficacy scale. Their individual-level analysis also included personal and professional background variables measured in the ATS survey. 6 Newmann, Rutter and Smith (1989) have shown school-level effects on teachers' collective sense of efficacy that might be correlated with school tendencies to track teachers and/or with teachers' tendencies to view their students as below the school average. These controls are thus important for separating school vs. track effects on teachers' individual efficacy scores. Our measures of school climate variables differ slightly from those used by Newmann, Rutter and Smith, yet the substantive meanings and alpha reliabilities of the measures are comparable.



to have limited monopoly over academic-track courses, there seems to be less distributional justice operating in the assignment of teachers to low-track classes. On the basis of published ethnographic studies such as Finley's (1984), we have learned that teachers regard instruction with academically successful and motivated students as qualitatively different from teaching students who are alienated from the high school's agenda. Our data on prevalence of teacher tracking in our nation's schools thus tell us that roughly 36% of teachers in an average high school have fundamentally different jobs from one another -- 14% of them relate to high-achieving students all day and 24% of them relate to low-achieving students all day. The remaining high school teachers span the range of student achievement over the course of their teaching day. We also have evidence from qualitative research that teachers view low-level classes as more demanding and less rewarding, because student motivation in these classes is problematic. All but the most equity-motivated and/or confident teachers avoid low-track classes if they can help it. In any case, teachers prefer at least a mix of high or average and low classes to exclusively low-track classes. We can infer, then, that most of the low-track high school teachers are relegated to this status in their departments and school. Our data indicate that the practice of tracking teachers in U. S. high schools is less likely in high-SES schools and more likely in schools with racially and ethnically diverse student populations and faculties. Structured inequalities in the teaching assignments of high school faculties appear to mirror social inequalities in the wider environment. In turn, these structured inequalities in the instructional program have broader implications for teachers' access to organizational resources in a school. Schools with high levels of teacher tracking also have greater inequalities in teachers' reported influence over school policy, control over instructional choices, and administrative support -- controlling for student and teacher diversity and school size. Professional growth opportunities are thus unequally distributed among teachers assigned to different student tracks. As in the case of student tracking, stratification of teachers by class assignments represents a syndrome of differential experiences in schools in terms of labeling and expectations, cognitive and emotional demands of the work, and access to valuable resources. It is not surprising that we find an effect of high school teachers' track placement on their instructional efficacy, even when organizational status and personal and professional status variables are controlled. Effects of teacher stratification within schools operate independently of between-school conditions that can affect average levels of teachers' beliefs 15

in their instructional efficacy, just as student stratification operates on academic achievement independent of average school effects. One might still wonder whether or not teachers assigned to low-track classes are less able than high-track and untracked teachers, in spite of data presented in this study. The English teachers in Suburban High School (Finley 1984) believed this to be true and legitimate. Such an allocation rule could account for their lower sense of instructional efficacy. If fact, a low sense of instructional efficacy may be a criterion used to assign teachers to low-track classes, and the direction of causation in our analysis may go in the opposite direction. The significance of data reported here does not depend upon a resolution of this issue. Regardless of whether relatively ineffective teachers are assigned to teach low-track classes or teachers assigned to teach low-track classes come to feel inefficacious, teacher tracking practices exacerbate student inequalities. Students in low-track classes are more likely than their academic or general track peers to have teachers with low status in the school, with fewer resources for professional growth, and who feel relatively ineffective in promoting student learning. The stratification of teachers, along with students, in U.S. high schools appears to be a significant source of inequality in students' educational opportunities.


REFERENCES Alexander, Karl L. , Martha A. Cook, and Edward L McDill. 1978. "Curriculum Tracking and Educational Stratification." American Sociological Review 43:47-66. Baron, James N. and William T. Bielby. 1985. "Organizational Barriers to Gender Equality: Sex Segregation of Jobs and Opportunities." Pp. 233-51 in Gender and the Life Course, edited by Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine. Finley, Merrilee K. 1984. "Teachers and Tracking in a Comprehensive High School." Sociology of Education 57:233-43. Gamoran, Adam. 1987. "The Stratification of High School Learning Opportunities." Sociology of Education 60:135-155. Griffin, Gary A. "Leadership for Curriculum Improvement: The School Administrator's Role." Pp. 195-212 in Schools as Collaborative Cultures: Creating the Future Now, edited by Ann Lieberman. New York: Palmer Press. Jencks, C.L., M. Smith, H Ackland, M.J. Bane, D.K. Cohen, H. Gintis, B Heyns, and S. Michaelson. 1972. Inequality; A Reassessment of the Effects of Family and Schooling in America. New York: Basic Books. Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1977. Men and Women of the Corporation. New York. Basic Books. Lieberman, A. and L. Miller. 1984. Teachers: Their Worlds and Their Work. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Little, Judith W. 1982. "Norms of Collegiality and Experimentation: Workplace Conditions of School Success." American Educational Research Journal 19:325-40. _____. 1990. "Teachers as Colleagues." Pp. 165-93 in Schools as Collaborative Cultures: Creating the Future Now, edited by Ann Lieberman. New York: Palmer Press. Oakes, Jeannie. 1985. Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press. Powell, Arthur G. , Eleanor Farrar and David Cohen. 1985. The Shopping Mall High School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Rosenbaum, James. 1976. Making Inequality: The Hidden Curriculum of High School Tracking. New York: Wiley. Sanders, Nancy. 1989. "Paths Through High School: Organizational Perspectives on Tracking." PhD diss., School of Education, Stanford University. 17

Sizer, Theodore R. 1984. Horace's Compromise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Sorensen, Aage B. and Maureen Hallinan. 1984. "Effects of Race on Assignment to Ability Groups." Pp. 85-103 in The Social Context of Instruction, edited by P.L. Peterson, L.C. Wilkinson, and M. Hallinan. Orlando: Academic Press. Talbert, Joan and Christine Bose. 1977. "Wage Attainment Processes: The Retail Clerk Case." American Journal of Sociology 83: 403-24.


Table 1. Prevalence of Teacher Tracking in U.S. Public High Schools A. Distribution of High School Teachers by Track Track Classification Low (0-9% students taught are above school average) Middle/Mixed High (70-100% of students are above school average) TOTAL B. Distribution of U.S. High Schools by % Teachers Tracked (Predominately Low or High Track Assignments) Percent Teachers Tracked in the School 0-14% 15-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 Over 50 TOTAL School Mean (sd) Percent U.S. Public High Schools (Weighted N) 5.6% (492) 13.6 (1,190) 13.9 (1,214) 19.2 (1,684) 11.7 (1,020) 17.5 (1,536) 7.6 (664) 10.9 (953) 100.0 (8,753) 34.4% (11.6) Percent (Weighted N) 23.6% (1,761) 62.7 (4,675) 13.7 (1,020) 100.0 (7,456)


Table 2. Social Context Predictors of Teacher Tracking in High Schools Correlation with Percent Teachers Tracked -.18* .34* .29* .29* .24*

School Variable Student Composition SES mean Percent Minority Teacher Composition Percent Minority Percent Women Schools Size (in 1,000s) R2 N

Regression of Proportion Teachers Tracked on Variables** -.05 (-.15)* .08 (.17)* -.01 (-.01) .26 (.26)* .04 (.20)* .22* 7836

* Statistically significant at .0001 level. ** Unstandardized regression coefficients are reported; standardized coefficients are shown in parentheses.


Table 3: Teacher Tracking and Social Context Predictors of School Organizational Inequalities Dimension of Organizational Inequality** School Variable Percent Teachers Tracked Student Composition SES mean Percent Minority Teacher Social Composition Percent Minority Percent Women School Size R2 N (ATS school weights applied) * Statistically significant at .0001 level ** The measures of organizational inequality used for this analysis are school level standard deviations (sd) of teachers' responses to survey questions about school conditions: the amount of teacher influence across four decision areas, the amount of control teachers have over classroom instructional choices, principal support, and collegial support.

Policy Influence Instructional Control Principal Responsiveness Teacher Community

.581 (.11)* -.224 (-.12)* .012 (.26)* .197 (.05) .007 (.14)* .016 (.02) .14* 7836

.483 (.08)* -.001 (-.00) .003 (.13)* .842 (.20)* .004 (.06) .313 (.30)* .32* 7836

2.437 (.17)* -.233 (-.05) .004 (.16)* .246 (.02) .034 (.24)* -.816 (-.07)* .11* 7836

.949 (.10)* .136 (.04) .004 (-.06) -.705 (-.10)* -.011 (-.11)* .122 (-.07)* .04* 7836


Table 4: Teacher Track and Organizational Status Predictors of Instructional Efficacy**

I Track Only II Org'l Status Only III Combined IV With Individual Controls 1.90 (.13)* -1.56 (-.13)* .41 (.08)* .61 (.12)* 1.14 (.22)* .41 (.08)* -.21 (-.01) .38 (.04) .08 (.02) .00 (.00) -.02 (-.01) V With School Controls Added 1.68 (.12)* -1.17 (-.10)* .44 .61 1.14 .40 (.09)* (.12)* (.22)* (.08)*

Teacher Track High Low Teacher's Organizational Status Policy Influence (Z) Instructional Control (Z) Principal Responsiveness (Z) Teacher Community (Z) Teacher's Social and Professional Status Race/Ethnicity (1 = minority) Gender (1 = F) Education Training (Subject) Experience Student Composition of School SES mean Percent Minority Average Organizational Conditions Policy Influence Instructional Control Principal Responsiveness Teacher Community School Size (in 1,000s) Student Disruption

1.96 (-.14)* -1.81 (-.16)* .46 (.09)* .65 (.12)* 1.08 (.21)* .40 (.08)*

1.87 (-.13)* -1.64 (-.14)* .40 (.08)* .59 (.12)* 1.06 (.21)* .43 (.09)*

.69 (.05) .38 (.04) .06 (.01) -.01 (.00) -.01 (-.01) 1.33 (.11)* -.51 (-.03) .12 (.04) .24 (.06)* .02 (.01) .14 (.06)* .16 (.02) -.37 (-.11)* .25* 5084

.05* .13* .18* .18* R2 7336 6537 6537 5539 N * Statistically significant at the .0001 level. ** Unstandardized regression coefficients are reported, with standardized coefficients shown in parentheses.


APPENDIX I. SURVEY SCALE DEFINITIONS Policy Influence: 24-point scale (alpha reliability = .72) based on individual teachers' responses to ATS question #1. How much influence do teachers have over school policy in each of the areas below? a. Determining student behavior codes (6 points) b. Determining the content of inservice programs (6 points) c. Setting policy on grouping students in classes by ability (6 points) d. Establishing the school curriculum (6 points) Instructional Control: 24-point scale (alpha reliability = .71) based on responses to ATS question #2. Using the scale provided, how much control do you feel you have in your classroom over each of the following areas of your planning and teaching: a. Selecting textbooks and other instructional materials (6 points) b. Selecting content, topics, and skills to be taught (6 points) c. Selecting teaching techniques (6 points) e. Determining the amount of homework to be assigned (6 points) Principal Responsiveness: 36-point scale (alpha reliability =.83) based on individual teacher responses to the following ATS questions. Question #19. Using the scale provided, please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: o. Staff members are recognized for a job well done (6 points) s. This school's administration knows the problems faced by the staff (6 points) w. The school administration's behavior toward the staff is supportive and encouraging (6 points) jj. The principal is interested in innovation and new ideas (6 points) 23

y. The principal seldom consults with staff members before he/she makes decisions that affect us (reverse coded - 6 points) Question #3. To what extent has each of the following helped you improve your teaching or solve an instructional or class management problem since you have been at this school: a. Principal or school head (6-points) Teacher Community: 42-point scale (alpha reliability = .78) based on responses to ATS question #19. Using the scale provided, please indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: d. You can count on most staff members to help out anywhere, anytime--even though it may not be part of their official assignment (6 points) e. Most of my colleagues share my beliefs and values about what the central mission of the school should be (6 points) n. The staff seldom evaluates its programs and activities (reverse coded - 6 points) x. Teachers in this school are continually learning and seeking new ideas (6 points) dd. There is a great deal of cooperative effort among staff members (6 points) ee. Staff members maintain high standards (6 points) v. I feel accepted and respected as a colleague by most staff members (6 points)



School Level Variable Teacher Tracking (% tracked) Organizational Inequality Policy Influence (sd) Instructional Control (sd) Principal Respon. (sd) Teacher Community (sd) Student Composition SES mean Percent Minority Teacher Composition Percent Minority Percent Women School Size (100s) Organizational Conditions Policy Influence Instruc. Control Principal Respon. Teacher Community Student Disruption Teacher Track (overall proportion) High Low Instructional Efficacy Teacher's Organizational Status Policy Influence (z-score) Instruc. Control (z-score) Principal Respon. (z-score) Teacher Community (z) Teacher's Social and Prof. Status Race/Ethnicity Gender (Female=l) Education (degree level) Training in Subject (level) Experience (level) Mean 34.38% 3.78 2.54 6.08 5.36 -0.12 15.41% 9.56% 46.11% 8.57 12.69 20.90 21.96 28.65 10.79 ------------------------------------sd 11.61 0.63 0.71 1.60 1.09 0.34 24.28 16.07 11.85 6.37 1.90 1.24 3.54 2.24 1.49 -------------------------------------

Indiv. Level Mean ---------------------------------------------0.13 0.23 19.10 0 0 0 0 0.14 0.44 5.55 5.89 9.95 sd ---------------------------------------------0.34 0.42 4.94 0.98 0.98 0.98 0.98 0.35 0.50 0.94 2.07 3.13




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