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Tracking Decisions in North Carolina’s Public High Schools

By Michael Harris

This paper analyzes the criteria employed to assign students into tracked English and Mathematics classes across public high schools in North Carolina. Specifically, I examine the probability of high track placement moving from eighth grade to ninth grade classrooms based upon both achievement and demographic factors. Analysis is performed at both the school and district level. Although student performance does affect placement at both levels, there are other personal characteristics that are significant factors in determining track assignment. The main finding is that being black has a positive effect on high track placement at the district level, but a negative effect at the school level. The former appears to be linked to residential segregation, while the latter suggests a within-school bias that has important policy implications.

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Advisor: Thomas Nechyba


Undergraduate Program Assistant
Jennifer Becker

Director of the Honors Program
Michelle P. Connolly