How does context matter? Comparing achievement scores, opportunities to learn, and teacher preparation across socio-economic quintiles using TIMSS and PISA

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Many people have touted education as a great equalizer because it provides students with the skills and opportunity to succeed in life based on their own merit. While this attitude has helped increase access to education around the world, the quality of that education varies. Globally, education has multiple challenges. On the micro level, educational quality remains inconsistent, and on the macro level, increasing economic inequality has potential to deleteriously affect education. This study analyzes the relationships between micro level education phenomena and these macro level economic forces to determine how economic inequality relates to education quality. This study engages the infamous educational "black box" in three different areas that capture, in aggregate, a meaningful portion of the classroom experience: opportunity to learn (OTL), teacher preparation, and student achievement. The analysis situates educational quality in the context of country-level economics by comparing students across three types of economic disparities: inequality between countries, inequality within countries, and inequality in the socio-economic status (SES) of students. Between-country inequality consists of differences in overall country income while within-country inequality concerns the distribution of income. Between-student inequality gauges the relative SES of families and their ability to provide resources conducive to education. The main hypothesis is that high SES students in more-unequal countries have relatively more access to educational resources, leading to relatively better teachers, relatively more OTL, and higher math scores. The converse would hold true for low SES students. Findings from international comparisons using the international assessments in 2003 (PISA and TIMSS) show that income inequality adversely relates to educational factors for students in all SES groups. Both high and low SES students in more-unequal countries have lower achievement scores, less prepared teachers, and less OTL. More detailed analysis at the country level does not identify any "silver bullets" for low or high income inequality countries, but does show that OTL has a greater relationship to achievement for higher SES students, while environmental factors such as community size matter for low SES students. Theses findings imply that high SES students have the foundation to take better advantage of their educational settings while low SES students must first manage their social and economic environments.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2010
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Adamson, Frank Marshall
Associated with Stanford University, School of Education.
Primary advisor Carnoy, Martin
Thesis advisor Carnoy, Martin
Thesis advisor Darling-Hammond, Linda, 1951-
Thesis advisor Ramirez, Francisco O
Thesis advisor Shavelson, Richard J, 1942-
Advisor Darling-Hammond, Linda, 1951-
Advisor Ramirez, Francisco O
Advisor Shavelson, Richard J, 1942-


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Frank M. Adamson.
Note Submitted to the School of Education.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2010.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2010 by Frank Marshall Adamson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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