Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Betty Hearn Morrow

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Stephen Fain

Third Advisor's Name

Alex Stepick

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dennis Wiedman

Date of Defense



Modern comprehensive high schools do not formally track students into different programs, but schools offer different curricular sequences with important and stratified consequences for students' post-secondary education. This study used qualitative methodology to examine how schools' organizational cultures influence the maintenance of tracking practices in four comprehensive high schools in Miami. The methodology included long-term participant observation in each of the four schools, unstructured and semi-structured interviews and the collection of written documents produced by the district. A framework based on the concepts of environment, mission,, information, strategy, and leadership was used to analyze the data.

It was found that school cultures shared deeply held beliefs that regard ability as a fixed trait. This prevented schools from providing access to information about the consequences of course selection to the majority of the student body, with the exception of those students defined as "college bound." State and County level policies that reward achievement in standardized tests combined with school overcrowding, resulted in organizational cultures that favored the adoption of strategies stressing efficiency, as opposed to a challenging education for all students. Only one of the four schools in the study had a policy requiring students to attempt courses that were more challenging. The practice was resented by both teachers and counselors, since it was perceived as interfering with other goals of the institution, i.e.: graduating students in four years.

The culture of the schools stressed college as the only legitimate post-secondary option; consequently, the majority of counselors did not encourage students-even those already defined as "not college material"-to consider other alternatives, such as vocational education. The elimination of formal tracks in these comprehensive high schools resulted in the school culture lacking a clear mission in regards to non-college bound students. Findings are discussed in relation to current theoretical explanations for educational policy and equality of opportunity.





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