On the basis of the TIMSS Case Study Project data collected in the United States, Japan, and Germany in 1994-1995, this article examines the phenomenon of tracking as part of curricular differentiation and student placement practices in public K-12 school systems. The authors document clear national differences in differentiation and placement measures and summarize the history of conflict over those measures. Analysis of respondent perceptions and beliefs about differentiation and placement (what people think "tracking" is) shows that nation-specific values and attitudes (i.e., cultures) determine which forms of curricular differentiation are legitimated and which contested. Dominant cultural beliefs about what students are capable of and the role that schools should play in educating them create different points of conflict over tracking.
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