Sources and outcomes of socioeconomic disparities in achievement : an international comparison
- It is a consistent finding across all countries that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not perform as well on standardized achievement tests as their more socioeconomically advantaged counterparts. But the size of SES disparities in achievement varies considerably across countries. This dissertation examines two possible sources for cross-national differences in SES disparities, secondary school curricular tracking and country economic inequality, and one possible outcome, lower average levels of achievement in the country on the whole. Prior research has examined these sources and outcomes at the country level, but the three analyses of this dissertation look within countries, taking full advantage of the microdata available for each international assessment. An International Comparison of Achievement Inequality in Between- and Within-School Tracking Systems. Tracking (when students at the same grade level are given different, hierarchically-defined content) is organized in a variety of ways cross-nationally at the secondary school level. Some countries (including the U.S.) track within schools on a course-by-course basis, while other countries employ more explicit academic and vocational streaming, usually in separate school buildings. Both forms have been theorized to increase SES disparities in achievement. This paper uses PISA data to compare the two forms of tracking, and their contributions to inequality in achievement, across the U.S. and 19 other developed countries. Results indicate that achievement gaps between tracks are comparable in size across both forms of tracking. Although academic/vocational streams are more SES segregated, tracking is nearly as important in explaining SES disparities in achievement in countries with course-by-course tracking as in countries with academic/vocational streaming. The Impact of the U.S. Socioeconomic Distribution on SES Disparities in PISA Performance. The relationship between students' science achievement and socioeconomic status in the U.S. is among the strongest in the developed world. Many scholars have attributed the U.S.'s large SES disparities in achievement to its high levels of economic inequality. Our analysis attempts to evaluate this claim while separating out compositional effects (resulting from a unique SES distribution in the U.S.) from contextual effects of inequality. We use relative distribution methods to transform the SES distributions of 29 other countries to be equivalent to that of the U.S., first at the student level and then at the school level. Results indicate that the unequal achievement of U.S. students is not merely an artifact of its student or school SES composition. Even after the adjustments, the U.S. relationship between student SES and achievement score remains one of the strongest in the developed world. Educational Excellence and Equity: Complementary, Contradictory, or Unrelated? Two of the primary goals of national education systems are educational excellence, or the average level of educational achievement, and educational equity, or the minimization of socioeconomic disparities in achievement. The relationship between equity and excellence is a fundamental question in educational research, but the cross-national evidence on this question has been inconsistent over time. Differing conclusions across eras may have been influenced in part by changing world norms and understandings of the factors driving educational systems' success. This paper attempts to investigate the relationship between equity and excellence more thoroughly than past international literature. It incorporates many years of data, and examines not only the country-level association between equity and excellence, but also the relationship within countries over time using hierarchical growth models. Results indicate that there is no significant relationship between socioeconomic disparities in achievement and levels of achievement, either cross-nationally or within countries over time. Overall, many of the results in this dissertation contradict the findings of prior research. While the chapter on economic inequality is consistent with past evidence of a weak relationship between economic inequality and SES disparities in achievement, the chapter on tracking suggests that this practice explains less of the variation in SES disparities across countries than previously found. Also contrary to some previous research, the chapter on equity and excellence suggests that reducing SES disparities in achievement may not increase the overall average level of achievement. These findings complicate our understanding of cross-national variation in SES disparities in achievement. But they provide a number of other contributions, including the first broadly cross-national comparison of between- and within-school tracking and new evidence on cross-national trends in mean achievement and SES disparities in achievement.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Chmielewski, Anna Katyn
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|Ramirez, Francisco O
|Ramirez, Francisco O
|Reardon, Sean F
|Reardon, Sean F
|Statement of responsibility
|Anna K. Chmielewski.
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2012.
- © 2012 by Anna Katyn Chmielewski
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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