Tracking, expectations, and the transformation of vocational education

Theodore Lewis, Shih Yu Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Vocational education has a long history of association with differentiated curricula in the American high school. But within the last two decades there has been a movement for curriculum change - a new vocationalism - that has sought to draw the subject closer to the dominant academic mainstream. This study of high school principals (n = 665) explored whether the new shift in curriculum thinking is being accompanied by changes in how students are assigned to curriculum tracks. More particularly, it explored whether racial and socioeconomic factors continue to influence tracking and to dictate which students get vocational education and whether these same demographic factors also influence the expectations held by principals about the likely postschool destination of graduates. Findings are that indeed race and socioeconomic status significantly influence both track assignment and principals' expectations in a way that conforms to the principle of self-fulfilling prophecy. The findings did not support the view that ethnic and racial minorities are more likely than white students to be placed in the vocational track; however, there was strong evidence of such differentiation with respect to the general track.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-100
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican Journal of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Nov 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Tracking, expectations, and the transformation of vocational education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this