Math Tracking and Motivation in Black Students: Feedback Experiences and Racial Diversity as Levers of Change

How does math tracking influence Black students’ academic motivation and achievement?

Course tracking is a widely used practice but can be problematic for Black students given its links to inequality in outcomes. Improving the quality of feedback students receive on their math performance and increasing the racial diversity of their courses are potential mechanisms to reduce inequality for Black students. Using a longitudinal, survey-based research design, Koenka will investigate how math tracking placement predicts motivational beliefs and achievement behaviors in sixth grade Black students, whether and how students’ experiences receiving feedback on their performance exacerbates inequality in their math performance, and how math class racial diversity varies as a function of math tracking. Black students from 20 tracked sixth-grade math classes (general or advanced) will take part in the research. Twenty-five students will participate in five focus groups to discuss their feedback experiences in mathematics. The focus groups will inform survey development. Next, through surveys of all students across the 20 middle schools, the students will report their: feedback experiences (middle of the semester), motivational beliefs (several weeks later), and future aspirations in mathematics (end of the semester). The team will use school administrative data to learn about course tracking, demographics, prior achievement, course grades, and achievement test scores. They will also use self-report survey data to examine student motivational beliefs, future aspirations, feedback experiences. A multilevel path analysis will be conducted to analyze the data.