Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Shin, Eui-kyung

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


Many of the variables that determine college admission are beyond a student’s control, including the academic track they were assigned as early as primary school—often referred to as “ability-grouping” or skills-homogeneous classes. Even in higher education, students feel the effects of unequal sorting and sifting from tracking. The purpose of this study was to learn from marginalized community college students who were in low and middle track courses in high school. The study located how socially marginalized students taking honors courses for the first time perceived their past experiences with tracking, current opportunities in community college honors, and ways tracking impacts identity. Data was gathered in a single case, at a Midwestern community college, through a two-part interview and digital diary recordings from participants who self-identified as socially marginalized. Results show high school low and middle track placement has negative effects on a students’ self-confidence into adulthood. Findings reveal secondary educators’ behaviors and peer-to-peer interactions are negatively influenced by low-track placement. Furthermore, data show labels and stereotypes assigned to academic tracks continue in community college. There is strong evidence to suggest students perceive honors courses as a means to break through financial barriers and secure honors scholarships at transfer institutions.


192 pages




Northern Illinois University

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