How do I get in? Criteria shaping the high school course recommendation process


  • Philip Evan Bernhardt Metropolitan State University of Denver


, ability, grouping, tracking, decision-making, teachers, K-12, school, course-taking, recommendations, course-placement


Academic tracking is a common practice in American high schools. While its impact on the lives of teachers and students is well documented, few studies pay close attention to the criteria used to determine high school students’ academic trajectories or how teachers select and apply these criteria. This review, which examines the types of criteria guiding high school teachers’ course recommendation decisions, is organized into four parts. First, the literature search process is described and the terms tracking and ability grouping are defined. Second, the significance of course placement is addressed through an examination of the relationship between tracking and the opportunity gap. Third, research drawing attention to the meritocratic and non-meritocratic criteria guiding secondary teachers’ course recommendation decisions is examined. The review concludes by offering recommendations for making school-based course placement policies and the criteria driving teachers’ decisions more consistent and transparent.

Author Biography

Philip Evan Bernhardt, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Dr. Philip Bernhardt is currently an Assistant Professor of Secondary Education and Department Chair of Secondary Education, Educational Technology, and K-12 Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Philip has spent well over a decade working in public schools, including eight years as a secondary social studies teacher. Additionally, Philip has presented at national education conferences on a variety of issues relating to the barriers to higher education, college readiness, curriculum development, and teacher preparation, induction, and mentoring. Philip earned his M.A.T from Boston University in Social Studies Education and B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.




How to Cite

Bernhardt, P. E. (2014). How do I get in? Criteria shaping the high school course recommendation process. Current Issues in Education, 17(1). Retrieved from