Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Practice

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Thomasina Hassler


Cheryl Osby

Robert Good


This co-authored dissertation is a macro-level case study of a public high school tracking system and a micro-level autoethnography from a music educator about vocal music placement practices. The case study sought to comprehensively describe and analyze the characteristics of a tracking system in all core subjects at a single school, including the extent of differentiation of levels, placement practices, student mobility, teacher tracking, and inclusiveness by race, class, and gender. It also used network analysis software to map more than 75,000 connections among students created by their course-taking; it used this to quantitatively identify student communities, which then were analyzed for demographic trends. Paired with the case study, the autoethnography examined the assumptions and placement practices in high school vocal music and in educator preparation programs. The case study found limited student mobility, complex placement practices that differed from one subject area to another, extensive segregation in nearly all subject areas, and limited evidence for teacher tracking. It also revealed several student communities that function as segregated schools-within-a-school. The autoethnography revealed the impact of teachers as evaluator on the leveling and ability grouping practices within vocal music education and specifically highlights bias through the lens of Critical Race Theory. Recommendations for policy reform are provided.