Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1996
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Organizational Processes Influencing Untracking


We continue examining the institutional arrangements that influence untracking in this chapter. The loci of the organizational processes we focus upon are outside the classroom. They reside in district offices, in counselors' or principals' offices. Despite the fact that these institutional arrangements operate at some distance from the classroom, they impact the career of untracked students in significant ways. Because untracking represents a significant modification in long-established educational practice, we place this discussion in the context of the history of innovations within large-scale organizations.


The history of innovations in educational and other institutions shows a remarkable and consistent pattern: Organizational innovations undergo changes as they become institutionalized. Attempts to reform or change organizations, especially those introduced from above or from outside them, are modified at the local level. The innovations are absorbed into the culture of the organization and adapted to fit preexisting routines or standard operating procedures. This pattern has been found repeatedly in business, philanthropic, and political organizations.

Michels's (1949) account of Germany's Social Democratic Party was perhaps the first that identified the adaptability of formal organizations to changing circumstances. Following suit, Selznick (1949) described the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as an organization founded during a reform movement whose original goals have been transformed in order for the institution to survive. According to Zald & Denton (1963) a similar process occurred within the YMCA.