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Does Segregation Still Matter? The Impact of Student Composition on Academic Achievement in High School


by Russell W. Rumberger & Gregory J Palardy — 2005

The Coleman report, published 12 years after the Brown decision, confirmed that widespread school segregation in the United States created inequality of educational opportunity. This study examines whether racial and socioeconomic segregation, which is on the rise in the United States, is still contributing to the achievement differences among students. The study used data from the National Education Longitudinal Survey of 1988 to estimate multilevel models of achievement growth between Grades 8 and 12 in mathematics, science, reading, and history for a sample of 14,217 students attending a representative sample of 913 U.S. high schools. The study found that the average socioeconomic level of students' schools had as much impact on their achievement growth as their own socioeconomic status, net of other background factors. Moreover, school socioeconomic status had as much impact on advantaged as on disadvantaged students, and almost as much impact on Whites as on Blacks, raising questions about the likely impact of widespread integration. The impact of socioeconomic composition was explained by four school characteristics: teacher expectations, the amount of homework that students do, the number of rigorous courses that students take, and students' feelings about safety. The results suggest that schools serving mostly lower-income students tend to be organized and operated differently than those serving more-affluent students, transcending other school-level differences such as public or private, large or small. This article then addresses the question of whether such school characteristics can be changed by policies to reform schools and funding systems versus policies to desegregate schools.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 9, 2005, p. 1999-2045
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12152, Date Accessed: 6/23/2017 2:53:19 AM

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About the Author
  • Russell Rumberger
    University of California - Santa Barbara
    E-mail Author
    RUSSELL W. RUMBERGER is a professor of education and director of the University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara. His research interests include research methods and education policy focusing on school dropouts, English language learners, student mobility, school effectiveness, and the achievement gap. Recent publications include “Test Scores, Dropout Rates, and Transfer Rates as Alternative Indicators of School Performance” (with Gregory J. Palardy) in the American Educational Research Journal (2005) and “Seeking Equity in the Education of California's English Learners” (with Patricia Gándara) in Teachers College Record (2004).
  • Gregory Palardy
    University of Georgia
    GREGORY J. PALARDY is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, University of Georgia. His areas of interest are research methodology, school and teacher effectiveness, and issues related to educational opportunity. Recent publications include “Test Scores, Dropout Rates, and Transfer Rates as Alternative Indicators of School Performance” (with Russell W. Rumberger) in the American Educational Research Journal (2005) and “Multilevel Models for School Effectiveness Research” (with Russell W. Rumberger) in Handbook of Quantitative Methodology for the Social Sciences, edited by David Kaplan (2004).
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