Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
Social Work, PhD
Faul, Anna C.
Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)
Yankeelov, Pamela A.
Yankeelov, Pamela A.
Hudson, J. Blaine
Approximately 1 million young people annually who should do not graduate from high school, positioning them on a downward trajectory of a lifetime of lower income and limited opportunities. The effects of low education ranges from micro-level consequences, such as unemployment and health, to mezzo-level consequences, such as neighborhood crime and poverty rates, to macro-level consequences, such as increased costs in government assistance and policy implications. Data from the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimate dataset and from the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) Division of Data Management, Planning, and Program Evaluation were used to examine environmental factors that influence student academic achievement. The model investigated the influence of neighborhood and school characteristics, after controlling for individual characteristics on students‘ ACT/EPAS scores among a sample of students enrolled in Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) high schools.
Methods: A cross-classified random effects multilevel model was estimated using MLwiN with a two-level nested structure. The model examined individual differences in 4075 students‘ ACT/EPAS scores for all juniors in the JCPS system in 2009-2010, who attended 21 different schools in Jefferson County and lived in 35 different neighborhoods. Ecological theory and social disorganization theory guided the conceptual model that was tested in the analysis.
Results: The results indicated that the school students attended as well as the neighborhood in which they lived in significantly influenced their performance on the ACT/EPAS. The individual controls that contributed the most to individual student academic achievement, were being White, having a high attendance record, not receiving a free/reduced lunch, attending only one high school during the four years of high school and not attending a neighborhood school. Neighborhood characteristics that contributed the most to individual student academic achievement were neighborhoods with a higher percentage of residents with at least a bachelor‘s degree. These neighborhoods were also those with lower levels of poverty, unemployment and female-headed households. School characteristics that contributed the most to individual student academic achievement were schools that had an overall better climate of success (higher average ACT scores, more children going to college, better graduation rates, less dropout rates, less students failing). Significant interactions were detected between neighborhoods and a child‘s attendance record, showing that attendance will have a better influence on a student‘s ACT scores if he/she lives in a more affluent neighborhood. Also, Black children will do consistently worse than White children, but both race groups will show better ACT scores if they are in more affluent neighborhoods. The type of neighborhood has a differential impact on children of other race groups. If living in a less affluent neighborhood, they will perform similar to Black children. However, if they live in a more affluent neighborhood, they will perform similar to White children. Another interaction was seen between type of neighborhood and type of school. Children living in less affluent neighborhoods, do better if they go to schools where there are more minorities in the school, than if they go to schools where there are less minorities. Black children did consistently worse than White children, even in schools with a less than ideal climate for success. However, the type of school in terms of climate has a differential impact on children of other race groups. If they go to a less than ideal climate for success school, they will perform similar to Black children. However, if they go to a school with a high success climate, they will perform similar to White children. When a child has a history of going to more than one high school, it will not impact him/her as much in a school with a less than ideal climate for success. However, the same child will be impacted much more if he/she is attending a school with a high success climate.
Conclusions: Implications from the results indicates there are policy and structural changes that could be made by the school district and local government that can assist in closing the achievement gap. The composition of neighborhood residents‘ educational attainment was shown to have an influence on individual student academic achievement, as students residing in neighborhoods with higher percentages of residents with at least a bachelor‘s degree had a positive effect on a student‘s individual academic achievement. Although students from all racial groups suffer from residing in less affluent neighborhoods, Black students suffer greatly. The implication of having lower percentages of residents with at least a bachelor‘s degree not only has bearing on high school students‘ achievement while in high school; it also has an influence on their overall educational attainment trajectory. Owens (2010) found that the percentage of residents with a bachelor‘s degree or higher influences young adults earning a bachelor‘s degree. Interpreting these results suggest a need to have institutional or structural changes to neighborhoods. Currently, there is a polarization between Louisville, KY neighborhoods with the lowest percent of residents with at least a bachelor‘s degree being 5.2 percent to the highest being 65.4 percent, which is a significant range gap. Mixed-income neighborhoods could help alleviate this gap by providing disadvantaged students the necessary exposure needed to individuals with higher educational attainment. The same phenomenon of exposure has bearing within the JCPS high schools. Like neighborhoods, there is a polarization between JCPS high schools, with the highest performing school (73% students scoring above 21 on the ACT) at the extreme opposite spectrum of the lowest performing school (1.6% students scoring above 21 on the ACT). Results indicated that individual students do better in schools with higher percentages of students doing well on the ACT; therefore, rather than disadvantaged students suffering in heavily concentrated lower-performance schools it will serve them best to be integrated in schools with students with a mixture of academic abilities. There is a common theme among lower performance schools, which include higher amounts of money spent per student and higher rates of students receiving free/reduced lunch, and they all being majority minority students enrolled. The more money spent yielded results of lower individual student achievement, which suggest that funding is not a fix to the achievement gap but it requires policy and structural changes, which can begin with examining the student assignment plan. Results have shown there is a relationship between quality of neighborhood and quality of school and this is an element that should be explored extensively by the school district as it relates to student assignment plans. Although results had shown that minority students from less affluent neighborhoods do better in schools with more minorities, it is important to ensure diversity within all schools. The life development benefits that come from being in diverse environments should not be compromised, however it will take efforts of school administrators and teachers to ensure that the school environment as a whole and within each classroom is inclusive. Having a diverse environment means nothing if those in authoritative positions, teachers and school administrators are not fostering inclusivity. Perhaps, this element of inclusivity explains why Black and White students from less affluent neighborhoods perform better in schools with more minorities. It is difficult to thrive in an environment where you are made to feel as an outsider. Professional development training on cultural competency and inclusivity throughout the school year should be provided to teachers and school administrators to assist in their efforts. Additionally diversity extends beyond the obvious, race and the student assignment plan could include other elements of diversity such as socioeconomic status. Attending schools with students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may expose less-advantaged students to norms about achievement or educational attainment (Owens, 2010) however, concentrated attention must be placed on making these students feel included and respected within the school‘s culture.. Rather than placing disadvantaged students in schools with high proportions of other disadvantaged students, a more concentrated focus by the school district could be placed on providing them opportunities to attend schools that are not only racially diverse but socioeconomically diverse.
Miller, Shawnise Martin, "Contextual effects on student academic achievement : a multilevel analysis." (2013). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 3246.