Author

Pam LiuFollow

Date of Award

5-14-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Pier A. Junor Clarke

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine D. Thomas

Third Advisor

Dr. Yali Zhao

Abstract

Teachers in United States’ high schools are often tasked with recommending students into mathematics tracks or ability groups. Unfortunately, the literature confirms there are disproportionately fewer Black and Brown students tracked into higher level mathematics courses, and there is limited understanding of how mathematics teachers’ recommendations interact with these inequitable tracking outcomes. The purpose of this research was to conduct a case study on the tracking recommendation perspectives of a team of General Algebra I teachers from a diverse, urban high school. The research questions guiding this dissertation were: 1) What criteria do 9th grade mathematics teachers use when recommending General Algebra I students upwards to the Honors Algebra I track? 2) How do General Algebra I teachers conceptualize equity in mathematics track recommendations at a diverse, urban high school?

A Critical Race Theory (CRT) framework centering race and racism shaped the study design and provided the critical lens for data analysis. Data was collected from four tiered sources: a digital survey featuring hypothetical vignettes, a group discussion, a supplemental interview, and individual follow-up interviews. The findings indicate that teachers: (a) believe using test scores as the sole determinants of student ability is inequitable; (b) are aware of racial discrepancies between the General and Honors tracks; (c) lack communication with administration and Honors teachers on school tracking policies; (d) are supportive of affirmative action solutions for increased tracking equity; and (e) benefit from a close relationship with the researcher of this study. The group of six General Algebra I teachers emerged with new understandings of their recommendation criteria and role in maintaining or disrupting tracking opportunity gaps. This study contributes to the literature on the nuances of mathematics teachers’ recommendation criteria and conceptualizations of equity. Implications are significant for critical conversations, school policy reform, professional development, and teacher training in the quest for social justice in education.

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