Thomas C. Hunt Building a Research Community Day


Beyond Tracking: The Relationship of Opportunity to Learn and Diminished Math Outcomes for U.S. High School Students

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



Educational Leadership


Separating students by perceived academic ability, often called tracking, may exacerbate opportunity gaps by providing some students with greater access to academic content than others. Historically, tracking has been examined by determining how students are enrolled in specific courses, however, we suggest that it is also necessary to examine students’ educational experiences within their courses. We operationalize these student experiences as opportunity to learn (OTL).

This study analyzed the 2009 High School Longitudinal Study data from the National Center for Educational Statistics to examine OTL among different mathematics courses by characterizing classes of math teachers’ pedagogical areas of emphasis.

Using latent class analysis, we found enriched, reasoning-focused, and rote knowledge classes. The enriched classroom had the highest math OTL with students in the rote classroom experiencing a significantly lower OTL. Black students, Hispanic students, and students living in poverty were more likely to be in the lowest OTL class, and students in the lowest OTL math class were less likely to be enrolled in advanced 9th grade math courses, had lower mathematics identity and self-efficacy, and had lower math achievement as measured by standardized assessments and highest level math course completed in high school. We discuss limitations, examine implications for educators and policymakers, and then offer suggestions for future research involving student tracking.




Presentation: 10:20 a.m. Friday, April 24, 2020