School level variables as predictors of individual student achievement

Year: 1998

Author: Bourke, Sid

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It is generally recognised that the home background of students is important for their achievement and progress through school, however, obtaining accurate information is becoming increasingly difficult. Concerns about privacy of family structure, income and occupation with blended families and whether parents are working, and the difficulty of obtaining accurate data from students means that parents have to be approached for the information as well as approval. Low response rates from parents questioned about such matters are of concern. School-level indicators of socioeconomic status, although coarse, may consist of more than the sum of family backgrounds of students attending the school. They add a "community" context, especially in the case of state primary schools which serve a defined local area. The usefulness of school-level data on poverty and ethnicity in predicting individual achievement of students in the Advanced Program was tested for a school district in South Carolina, USA. Although other school and individual indicators were considered, the major focus of this paper is the relationship of poverty of the total school, as measured by the proportion of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, with the MAT7 basic skills reading and mathematics scores of 1394 students in Years 3 to 5.