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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Untracking and College Enrollment

  • Author(s): Mehan, Hugh
  • Datnow, Amanda
  • Bratton, Elizabeth
  • Tellez, Claudia
  • Friedlaender, Diane
  • Ngo, Thuy
  • et al.

The number of students from linguistic and ethnic minority backgrounds in the United States is expected to increase just as the number of jobs that require higher education is expected to increase. However, students from these minority backgrounds are neither performing in high school well enough nor enrolling in college in sufficient numbers to qualify for the increasing number of jobs that will require baccalaureate degrees.

"Compensatory education" has been the prevailing strategy used in U.S. public schools to deal with the problem of low-achieving students. San Diego’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) "untracking" program was developed as an alternative to compensatory education and remedial/racking for underachieving high school students, especially/hose from ethnic and linguistic minority backgrounds. Untracking is the practice of placing low- and high-achieving students together in a rigorous academic program. AVID places low-achieving students in college preparatory classes and provides them with a strong system of social and academic supports. This report examines the educational consequences of the AVID untracking program as measured by students’ college


AVID graduates from ethnic and linguistic backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in U.S. colleges and universities are enrolling in college in numbers that exceed local and national averages. Interviews with 144 AVID graduates from the classes of 1990 and 1991 revealed that 50% were enrolled in four-year colleges. The local average for four-year college enrollment was 38%, and the national average was 39%.

This study, although preliminary, reveals the power of rigorous academic programs to improve the

academic achievement of previously underachieving students. If these findings stand up under closer

scrutiny, we can conclude that rigorous academic programs are more effective than compensatory

education programs in meeting the needs of low-achieving students.

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