How secondary schools manage differences between students: Identifying strategies and evaluating their effectiveness.
When students in secondary education do not achieve the objectives of their track (ASO, TSO, KSO and BSO in Flanders), they must either repeat a grade or change track. The goal of both interventions is to allocate the student to a more fitting educational environment, and to make classes more homogeneous in students’ abilities and interests. Although grade retention and track change are both interventions for underperforming students, they are separate topics in the literature. Hence, in this project we will investigate tracking and grade retention as rival interventions that schools can use to reduce differences between students in classrooms. First, we will investigate under which circumstances schools prefer to let students either repeat a grade or change track. Second, we will answer the question why students prefer one of both interventions when they are given a choice. Third, we will compare the effects of grade retention and lower track allocation as rival treatments that can occur at different time points. Fourth, we will assess whether the reduction of student heterogeneity in classrooms truly leads to more effective education. We will use a combination of novel statistical methods and qualitative research to understand what drives schools’ policies and students’ choices. Furthermore, to assess these interventions’ effects, we will use quasi-experimental methods that remove pre-existing differences between students across educational trajectories.