Theses Doctoral

Race, Tracking, and the Politics of Access to Advanced Coursework in North Carolina: A Case Study

Clark, Constance

Tracking, or ability grouping, separates students often based on perceived academic ability based on subjective rather than objective criteria. State policies mandating objective placement criteria could increase access to advanced coursework and reduce the harmful effects of tracking.

In 2018 and 2019, North Carolina enacted legislation mandating advanced mathematics placement for top-scoring students. Despite a turbulent 2019 legislative session, the policy passed unanimously in 2019. This qualitative case study draws on interviews, legislative documents, local news articles, and publicly available reports and data to explore how race and the politics of tracking influenced the legislation at key stages of the policy process.

The research is intended to inform both scholarly literature in the fields of political science and public policy and provide practical insights into the educational policymaking process. Findings underscore the importance of the framing and messaging of an issue, bipartisan political relationships, and the role of the local media.

Additionally, by examining the use of a race-neutral framing in the political messaging and policy formulation, the study sheds light on the tension between incremental progress through meritocratic ideals of promotion and access rather than directly addressing systemic educational inequality inherent in systems of tracking.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Clark_columbia_0054D_18317.pdf Clark_columbia_0054D_18317.pdf application/pdf 1.74 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Politics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Henig, Jeffrey
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 28, 2024