Stereotype Threat and Tracking in High School Math Classes
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Stereotype threat is the fear of confirming a stereotype experienced by a negatively stereotyped group when placed in a situation that makes that stereotype salient (Steele & Aronson, 1995). This topic has been researched extensively over the past 15 years, however never in connection to the educational concept of tracking, where ability-homogeneous classes are created by grouping high-ability students together in one class and low-ability students together in another class (Mulkey, Catsambis, Steelman, & Crain, 2005). Women are negatively stereotyped in the domain of mathematics relative to men, and this proposed study analyzed whether tracking in mathematics decreases or increases this threat for female students. Eleventh grade students from two different high schools, a private all-female school and a public mixed-gender school, were studied in three different math classes. Both schools used a nearly identical tracking system with a high-track, low-track, and mixed-ability or untracked class. Results analyzed students' grades, GPA, and questionnaires designed to measure stereotype threat and academic ability that were completed four times throughout the school year. Researchers expected low-track females to have higher stereotype threat scores than high-track females, for females to have higher stereotype threat scores than male students, and for stereotype threat to be higher in the mixed gender school than the all-female school.