The Structure and Social Consequence of Postsecondary Tracking
Amy Stich

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Northern Illinois University

Primary Discipline

Decades of research on tracking suggest that this sorting process obstructs and limits educational opportunities for some while preserving the privilege of others. However, very little attention is paid to similar levels of stratification within colleges and universities wherein academic tracking and its consequences are manifest. Given the significant lack of attention to deepening levels of stratification within many of our nation’s most “accessible” postsecondary institutions, which arguably parallel the same internal race- and class-based stratification evident within secondary schools, the purpose of my proposed research is to examine the structure and social consequence of three distinct academic tracks (honors, developmental/remedial and traditional) within two non-selective, four-year universities. This qualitative, multi-case study will employ in-depth interviews, observations and document analysis in order to examine the experiences of undergraduate students within these three distinct academic tracks. By focusing on stratification within universities rather than between them, this research contributes to our understanding of deepening levels of inequality in the postsecondary system. In addition, this research aims to contribute to conversations surrounding educational policies and practices that seek to improve access, opportunities and outcomes for underrepresented students in higher education.
About Amy Stich
Amy E. Stich is an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University. Dr. Stich earned her Ph.D. in sociology of education at the University at Buffalo where she was also a postdoctoral researcher on a longitudinal ethnographic study of urban high school students’ transitions to college in STEM, funded by the National Science Foundation. Her research focuses on the reproduction of class and race-based inequalities in education. Dr. Stich has published widely in academic journals including the British Journal of Sociology of Education, American Educational Research Journal, and Review of Educational Research, and is the author of Access to Inequality: Reconsidering Class, Knowledge and Capital in Higher Education (2012, 2014). Her most recent contribution includes her co-edited volume The Working Classes and Higher Education: Inequality of Access, Opportunity and Outcome (2016). In addition to her empirical work, Dr. Stich maintains a line of scholarship in qualitative inquiry and is particularly interested in researcher reflexivity and relational thinking.

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