Students are more likely to organize in homogenous and hierarchical cliques in schools that offer them more choices, says a study published last week.
The study, in an online preview of the American Sociological Review, found that schools that offer students more choice—more elective courses, more ways to complete requirements, a bigger range of potential friends, more freedom to select seats in a classroom—are more likely to be rank-ordered, cliquish, and segregated by race, age, gender, and social status.
Stanford University education professor Daniel A. McFarland based his conclusions on school-level data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and classroom-level data (surveys asking students who they “hung around with as friends,” observations, and school records) that he collected at two high schools in 2001.
He said more research is needed, however, and cautioned schools against responding to student social segregation by “tracking” students academically, taking away their course choices, or forcing them into more varied social relationships.
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as Cliques in School