School Leaders' Actions and Detracking for Student Achievement: A Concurrent Mixed-Methods Approach

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Thornton, Margaret, Education - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Meyers, Coby, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

Marginalized students continue to be placed in lower-level classes at disproportionate rates. Some schools have turned to detracking as a way to counter this problem. Using a concurrent mixed methods research design, this study identified several meaningful factors of school leadership at work in the context of detracking. Analyses of interviews with school leaders and student outcome data suggests that providing open-access pre-IB or pre-AP courses can help increase student participation in advanced course. Leaders supported teachers in differentiating and changing their mindsets about whom constitutes an honors student. Leaders also sought to help the surrounding community articulate and support values for detracking. In terms of student relationships, leaders also communicated high expectations for students. School leaders also demonstrated a commitment to the promises of equity and heterogeneity. Leaders created and sustained a culture of honors work. Focusing on student support paid dividends for students, as did leveraging community resources. Finally, supporting teachers in navigating detracking work also supported successful student outcomes in these detracking programs. These findings suggest important implications for policy makers, practitioners, and researchers interested in expanding access to higher-level courses for marginalized students and making sure they are successful in those courses.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
school leadership, detracking, equity, case study, mixed methods
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