Schooling and Parenting: Implications for Students' Academic Identity (2017-2018)


School tracking is the division of students into separate classes or groups based on perceived ability. It 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 and 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 Bass Connections project will examine whether parenting practices moderate the effect of tracking on children’s academic identity. Specifically, the aims of this project are to: 

  1. Examine the relationship between youths’ school tracking experiences and their academic identity
  2. Determine whether parenting practices moderate the link between tracking and academic identity
  3. Examine differences in school experiences and academic identity between youth attending schools in two racially and economically different school districts.

This project consists of a mixed methods design. Approximately 356 sixth graders from four middle schools were surveyed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in Fall 2016 as part the 2016-2017 version of this Bass Connections project. Interviews were conducted with a subsample of 45 students and a sample of 10 teachers. Parents completed surveys. Surveys were administered to students again in Spring 2017.

In 2017-2018, this project team will conduct follow-up surveys with seventh graders in Chapel Hill who participated in 2016-2017 as sixth graders, to examine changes in students’ experiences as they progress through middle school. Team members will also collect data from students, teachers and parents in Durham to examine if racial and socioeconomic school composition (in comparison to the demographically different Chapel Hill schools) contributes to differences in students’ academic identity development.

Anticipated Outcomes

Information that might help youth assigned into lower academic tracks to maintain a sense of belonging within academic settings; publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals of education, psychology or public policy; dissemination to educators and parents throughout the Research Triangle of North Carolina


Fall 2017 – Summer 2018

Team meetings will take place on Tuesdays, 2:00-3:30, during the academic year.

  • Fall 2017: Quantitative data collection (teachers, students, parents); qualitative data collection (teachers, students, principals); data analysis and manuscript preparation 
  • Spring 2018: Data analysis and manuscript preparation; transcription of audiotaped qualitative interviews; quantitative data collection (students)
  • Summer 2018: Data analysis and manuscript preparation; presentation of findings to parents and schooling agents

See earlier related team, Schooling and Parenting: Implications for Students' Academic Identity (2016-2017).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

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

Undergraduate Team Members

Ashley Jeffers, Economics (AB), Public Policy Studies (AB2)
Shanjiao Jiang, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Kalito Luna, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Malini Mehta, Neuroscience (AB), Psychology (AB2)
Grace Mok, Economics (AB)
Victoria Prince, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Nicholas Simmons, Computer Science (AB)
Julia Sutherland, Public Policy Studies (AB), Political Science (AB2)

* denotes team leader