Texas's House Bill 5 as modern tracking structure : social stratification reified?




Arrington, Katherine Leigh

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In 2013, Texas policymakers passed House Bill 5 (HB 5), which changed high school graduation requirements to a multitiered set of plans called the Foundation High School Program (FHSP). This hierarchical set of graduation plans groups students based on a chosen career endorsement and offers different content instruction based on their choices, mirroring tracking structures that categorize students into groups and then provide those groups with dissimilar instructional experiences. This project investigated whether HB 5 is achieving the hope of the bill’s authors—to increase student engagement through allowing students to choose programs tailored to their career aspirations—or if the policy functionally operates as tracking. This study used a quantitative analysis of the data available through the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to look for descriptive patterns in the offerings and outcomes for students using the predictor variables of the type of or urbanicity of the district and the racial and socioeconomic composition of each district. Generalized linear models and generalized linear multilevel models indicate the extent to which relationships between both the HB 5 graduation plan offerings in each district and outcomes for students enrolling and graduating under the HB 5 plans and the district’s characteristics. This study found significant differences in the endorsements offered by districts based on urbanicity of the district, specifically differences between rural districts and the rest of the state. The study found differences in who was enrolled in FHSP while enrollment was considered optional, with significant differences by year and for those students enrolled in rural districts as well as specifically for students in districts with higher proportion of African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino students. There are significant differences in graduates under FHSP who earned the distinguished level of achievement based on these predictors and specific differences in the odds of students in suburban districts with higher proportions of African American/Black students graduating under FHSP and earning the distinguished level of achievement. Implications indicate that FHSP operates as a means to uphold the system of student tracking


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