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Volume 112, Number 4 (2010)

by Roslyn Arlin Mickelson
In this essay, Roslyn Arlin Mickelson introduces the set of three special issues about the effects of school and classroom composition on educational outcomes. The 22 articles in the set report new research on the relationship of racial and socioeconomic composition to math and science outcomes (Vol. 112, No. 4); to verbal achievement, discipline, and high school graduation (Vol. 112, No. 5); and to intergroup relations and adult life course trajectories (Vol. 112, No. 6). She suggests why the findings have implications for public policy and educational practice.
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by Mark Berends & Roberto V. Penaloza
We analyze nationally representative data from 1972, 1982, 1992, and 2004, examining the mathematics achievement of four high school senior cohorts, and several school and family background characteristics. We examine how changes in these measures (in terms of means and coefficients) relate to the black-white and Latino-white test score gaps and to changes in school minority composition.
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by J. Douglas Willms
Findings from several international studies have shown that in every country, there is a significant relationship between literacy skills and socioeconomic status. This relationship, called a socioeconomic gradient or “learning bar,” is a useful policy device because it provides a framework that emphasizes levels of schooling outcomes and the equality of outcomes among advantaged and disadvantaged groups. Research has also shown that schools differ considerably in their student outcomes, even after taking account of students’ ability and family background. The context or learning environment of a school or classroom is an important determinant of the rate at which children learn. The academic literature has traditionally used school composition, particularly the mean socioeconomic status (SES) of the school, as a proxy for context. This article uses data from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to show that school composition is correlated with several aspects of school and classroom context and that many of these contextual factors are associated with students’ science literacy. School composition is also associated with the extent to which school systems are segregated “horizontally,” based on the distribution among schools of students from differing SES backgrounds, or “vertically,” due mainly to mechanisms that select students into different types of schools. The findings have implications for educational policy that concern the differential allocation of human and material resources, the stratification of students into different types of schools and school programs, and the segregation of students from different family backgrounds.
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by Chandra Muller, Catherine Riegle-Crumb, Kathryn S. Schiller, Lindsey Wilkinson & Kenneth A. Frank
This article examines the mathematics course-taking of White, African American, and Latino students in racially diverse schools and the effects of different opportunity structures in those schools on college preparation and college-going using data from the Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement Study (AHAA) and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health).
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by Xiaoxia A. Newton
This study examines how high school graduates got to where they were in terms of mathematics attainment from a social-psychological perspective. The study uses a three-level longitudinal and multilevel modeling framework to address the key research questions.
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by Mark C. Hogrebe & William F. Tate IV
The percentages of free/reduced price lunch students and minority students are important factors in predicting science proficiency in high school and also moderate relationships by interacting with school composition factors. This study suggests that teacher quality in high poverty, majority-minority school settings remains an important policy target for reform and improvement.
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by Laura B. Perry & Andrew McConney
This study examines the relationships among student socioeconomic status (SES), school SES, and academic achievement using data from the 2003 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for Australia. The study finds that increases in the mean SES of the school are associated with increases in a student's academic achievement and that this relationship is similar for all students regardless of their individual SES. The article concludes with a discussion of policy implications and possible strategies for mitigating the influence of school socioeconomic composition on student outcomes.
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by Douglas N. Harris
This study describes and compares theories from multiple disciplines about how peers (classmates) influence one another. It then compares the empirical predictions of the theories with empirical evidence about peer influences on student achievement, draws tentative conclusions about which theories are most consistent with the evidence, and proposes a new hybrid theory, group-based contagion, that seems most consistent with the evidence.
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