Track Misperceptions and Frustrated College Plans: An Analysis of the Effects of Tracks and Track Perceptions in the National Longitudinal Survey
Rosenbaum, J. E. (1980). Track Misperceptions and Frustrated College Plans: An Analysis of the Effects of Tracks and Track Perceptions in the National Longitudinal Survey. Sociology of Education, 53(2), 74-88.
Social allocation processes in schools have recently attracted interest in the status-attainment literature, particularly in studies of the effects of high school tracking. However, although studies of tracking have often taken students' reports as indicators of their track placements, some case studies have suggested that students may not understand or correctly perceive their track placements. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey, the present study compares the effects of tracking in two versions of a status-attainment model, one using students' track perceptions and the other using their actual tracks (taken from school records), and then combines the two in a single model. This study finds that students often misperceive their tracks and that students' track perceptions significantly underestimate tracking's relationship with important antecedents and outcomes. In particular, it finds that tracking has an important influence on students' college attendance after controlling for students' plans, but track perceptions do not. This suggests that although tracking frustrates many students' plans to attend college, students' incorrect perceptions of their track placements make them less able to anticipate that this will happen. The methodological implications of this analysis for tracking research are considered, and some speculations are offered about how track misperceptions may originate and how they may influence the operation and stability of track systems