Educational Matchmaking: Academic and Vocational Tracking in Comprehensive High Schools

J. Oakes, M. Selvin, L. Karoly, G. Guiton

Historically, the matching of students to different high school programs has carried with it racial, ethnic, and social-class overtones, with immigrant, poor, and minority youth more often enrolled in low-level vocational and academic training and middle- and upper-class whites more often enrolled in academic, college preparatory classes. This arrangement has come under fire in the last decade for its failure to deliver either effective or equitable education. Some reforms have been put toward education in an attempt to reconstruct the high school curriculum in ways that break down the distinctions between the vocational and academic domains. This change cannot be successful without committed support from policymakers and educators. This report describes the results of a two-year study which examined how three comprehensive high schools make decisions about what courses to offer and which courses are appropriate for various students.

MDS-127 / October 1992

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