Date of Conferral







Sharon Johnson


In the 1920s, high school students were placed on one of three tracks: high, average, and low. Over the years, vocational education was transformed into a low track assignment for students, often racial minorities, who were perceived as less intelligent. However, the interaction between vocational education and tracking policies and practices remained unclear. Using critical race theory, this study produced an historical analysis of the interaction of these two programs. This included a systematic identification of the originating factors influencing tracking and contemporary tracking policies and practices to understand how tracking affected racial minority students' access to equal educational opportunities in the early 1900s and from 2006 to 2009. Data sources used included archival records that contained tracking data, policy discussions, and policy records; these were used to determine how and why tracking was implemented in one public school district and the impact of the policy itself. Themes were identified using latent and manifest coding procedures including deductive categorization. Results indicated that one unintentional side effect of tracking was the placement of students unfamiliar with traditional White cultures into lower skill student tracks. Further, a comparison of the 1920s and 2006 to 2009 tracking and vocational education programs indicated no adaptations to ameliorate these unintentional side effects. Implications for positive social change include clarifying to policymakers issues in tracking as a means of placement that may result in inappropriate decisions that limit options for minority students.