The Principal Perspective: A Case Study on the Perceptions of Middle School Principals Toward Ability Grouping and Tracking

Arrington, Brenda Watts, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Butler, Alfred, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kneedler, Rebecca, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The Principal Perspective: A Case Study on the Perspectives of Middle School Principals toward Ability Grouping and Tracking investigated the views and beliefs middle and high school principals hold about curricular tracking and ability grouping, and the impact such organizational structures may have on student learning. Tracking impacts learning in ways that create sustained gaps in academic achievement. Such configurations have farreaching effects for the futures of specific racial, cultural and socioeconomic groups. Considered to be ubiquitous and pervasive, academic tracking has been used to separate and categorize learners based on criteria that are often subjective, inconsistent and unreliable.

The Principal Perceptions study revealed several common beliefs that school principals in middle and secondary education share. Retrospective cross-case analyses illustrated the perceptions and theoretical practices these principals demonstrate while interacting with students and teachers based on track placement. According to them, economically advantaged learners are given greater opportunities for engaged learning in classrooms. Common strands were evident despite differences in their individual approaches to tracking. The results disclosed a concern these principals share over the fact that tracking may circumvent learning, separate students racially, culturally and economically, and denigrate student self-esteem while limiting any potential for academic success.

MED (Master of Education)
ability grouping, curricular tracking, organizational school structures, principals' perceptions, track placement, opportunity to learn, equity, teacher efficacy, quality of instruction, student self-esteem, parental involvement
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