Schooling and Parenting: Implications for Students' Academic Identity (2016-2017)


School tracking—the division of students into separate classes or groups based on perceived ability—is a major mechanism through which schools perpetuate achievement disparities in children from different racial-ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Despite significant attention to tracking, there is still much that is unknown about the implications of tracking on students’ academic identification—the connection between one’s personal identity and one’s role as a student. A favorable academic identity is associated with higher grades, motivation and classroom participation as well as lower dropout rates and participation in deviant behaviors. Therefore, identifying resources that guard against the negative consequences of tracking for academic identity could have implications for numerous factors that capture youths’ academic experience.

Project Description

Given that parents are arguably the biggest socializing force during the identity-forming stage in children’s lives, parenting practices might be a resource for youth assigned into lower academic tracks. Thus, in addition to examining the link between tracking and academic identity, this project will examine whether parenting practices moderate the effect of tracking on children’s academic identity.

The aims of this project are to examine the relationship between youths’ school tracking experiences and their academic identity and to determine whether parenting practices moderate the link between tracking and academic identity.

This project will consist of a mixed methods design. Approximately 1,300 sixth graders from three middle schools will be surveyed. Team members will conduct interviews with a subsample of 45 students, their parents and a sample of 10 teachers. This team will use findings to collaborate with schooling agents and parents to create strategies that can strengthen students’ academic identity.

Anticipated Outcomes

This project will yield information that might help youth assigned into lower academic tracks to maintain a sense of belonging within academic settings. Findings could be submitted to peer-reviewed journals of education, psychology or public policy and disseminated to educators and parents throughout the Research Triangle area in North Carolina.

Related Course

Undergraduate and graduate students will complete an independent study in Fall 2016, Understanding Students’ Academic Identity through Mixed Methods Research, which will meet biweekly. The course will require students to read literature on parenting, education and research methods and to discuss the process of participant interviews and the collection of quantitative and qualitative data. Students will be evaluated based on their participation in class meetings, data collection activities, interview transcriptions and term papers that consist of a description of skills gained during the course for undergraduates and a proposal for new research projects for graduate students.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Summer 2016: Survey preparation, reaching out to schools, IRB. Fall 2016: Quantitative data collection (teachers, students, parents); qualitative data collection (teachers and students); data entry; data analysis and manuscript preparation. Spring 2017: Transcription of audiotaped qualitative interviews; data collection. Summer 2017: Data analysis and manuscript preparation; presentation of findings to parents and schooling agents.


Independent study credit available for fall and spring semesters

Team Outcomes to Date

Project website


Jennifer Acosta '17

Celia Garrett '19

Nia Moore '19

Victoria Prince '18

Trey Walk '19

This Team in the News

Congratulations 2016-2017 Global Human Rights Scholars

See photos of this team on Flickr

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Angel Harris, Trinity - Sociology
Jennifer Lansford, Center for Child & Family Policy*
Kamilah Legette, Social Science Research Institute*

Undergraduate Team Members

Jennifer Acosta, Psychology (AB)
Celia Garrett, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Nia Moore, Public Policy Studies (AB), Int Comparative Studies (AB2)
Victoria Prince, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Keitavious (Trey) Walk, Public Policy Studies (AB), History (AB2)

* denotes team leader