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On the Right Track: The Consequences of Mathematics Course Placement Policies and Practices in the Middle Grades

Ekstrom, Ruth B.; Mitchell, Roger D.; Coley, Richard J.; Gant, Joyce V.; Villegas, Ana Maria; Watts, Susan M.
Publication Year:
ETS/National Urban League Report to the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Track System (Education), Performance Factors, Student Placement, Minority Group Children, Middle Schools, Mathematics Education, Educational Policy, Ability Grouping


The four papers in this report summarize the major findings of the On the Right Track Project, a joint effort of the Education Testing Service and the National Urban League. The first paper, "Six Urban School Districts: Their Middle Grade Mathematics Grouping Policies and Practices" (Ruth B. Ekstrom), describes the six school districts and their policies and practices in regard to placing middle grades students for mathematics instruction. While several districts were trying, by the nomenclature used and the number of curriculum tracks offered, to reduce some of the effects of tracking, the result was to put more minority students into classes designated as low ability or emphasizing skill development. The second paper, "Parental Knowledge of the Participation in Placement and Tracking Decisions" (Roger D. Mitchell), focuses on issues of parent involvement in, and awareness of, the placement policies that affected their children. The third paper, "Middle Grade Students' Attitudes about Mathematics and Their Math Classes" (Richard J. Coley and Joyce V. Gant), deals with the consequences of grouping policies and practices in relation to student attitudes about mathematics, their mathematics classes, classroom experiences, their study habits, and their educational aspirations. The fourth paper, "Life in the Classroom: The Influence of Class Placement and Student Race/Ethnicity" (Ana Maria Villagas and Susan M. Watts), reports classroom observation data in life in these middle grades classrooms, including differences in: (1) teacher-student interaction and the types of mathematics being taught across high, middle, and low ability groupings; and (2) how teachers interact with white and minority students within each of these ability levels. (MDH) (Abstract obtained from ERIC)

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