When children start school in the US, they are often divided into ability groups, and by high school this trend is formalised further, as pupils are directed onto different “tracks”. In theory, pupils are placed on tracks in order to maximise their achievement by grouping them based on ability or college orientation. Researchers have previously found that these tracks offer uneven opportunities for further achievement and success in college.
A study in Urban Education has shown how this effect persists into adulthood. The study examined the link between tracking in high school and salary income for young adults and whether these effects vary by the individual’s gender and race. Using data from the US National Education Longitudinal Study, the researchers found that educational tracking is associated with future income, independent of the quantity of education that individuals receive. The researchers suggest that it is important to inform educators, as well as parents and young people, on the long-term implications of track placement to ensure that they understand the ramifications of tracking decisions.
Source: Tracking success: High school curricula and labor market outcomes by race and gender (2012), Urban Education47(6)