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Tracking students in secondary school
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Inequality in the track allocation

Background information
About this blog
Which definitions do I use?
What does tracking look like?
What do we expect based on theory?
Does it matter for performance?
Does it increase inequality in performance?
Uploaded 27-12-2019.


Dividing pupils or students into different educational levels (aka 'tracking') has a bad reputation: tracking is seen to disadvantage those students who do not make it to the higher tracks. However, since not all students tend to learn in the same way, every educational system has some manner of adjusting learning to the different ability levels of students. In order to take into account students' differences in learning, some countries formally select them into educational levels based on ability (tracking), while other countries have informal tracking structures. Examples of such informal tracking structures are when pupils of similar ability are put together in a class (ability grouping) or when private schools try to attract only the brightest pupils and thereby become the "high track".

Is tracking's bad reputation warranted? Or is it similar to these informal tracking structures? And does tracking have an impact on all sort outcomes, like test scores, obtained degrees, later wages, school motivation, or self-esteem? Or only on some? I will use this blog to discuss the many sides and effects of tracking. I will refer to the work done by others and also post my own research.

Me and how I work

Since 2012, when I started my PhD, I have been studying the effects of tracking on student outcomes. In this blog, I will keep you up to date as to the work on tracking done by others and by myself. I will work according to the principles of Open Kitchen Science, as formulated by Rosanne Hertzberger. This means that I will post all my work (also when it resulted in only insignificant results) and will make my data and methods available. My posts will primarily be in English, since this is the language of the scientific community working on tracking. When a topic is only of relevance to the Dutch (policy) context, I will add posts in Dutch.

My background (see my CV and research) is mostly in economics and sociology, and these will also be the disciplines of most of the work discussed in this blog. However, I aim to gradually supplement this with work from other disciplines (e.g. educational science, psychology, and perhaps others). If you feel I have missed out on particular publications/insights from other disciplines which would be of value to this blog, please let me know: contact@roxannekorthals.com.