Left behind: School poverty, remoteness, and opportunity to learn global competence

Year: 2015

Author: Their, Michael

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2013) declared all K-12 students should be educated for global competence. This call is supported by researchers who argue for global competence as an essential 21st-century outcome (Andrzejewski & Alessio, 1999; Reimers, 2009; Wagner, 2010; Zhao, 2010). However, we know little about how ambitious a goal it might be to make global competence universal in K-12 education. Global competence—the capacities and dispositions necessary to understand and act on issues of global significance (Mansilla & Jackson, 2011)—has received scant attention from opportunity to learn (OTL) scholars. Global competence studies have examined OTL among university students exclusively (see Braskamp, Braskamp, & Engberg, 2013; Hett, 1993; Killick, 2012; Morais & Ogden, 2010; Soria & Troisi, 2014). We know little about global competence among K-12 students (Perry & Southwell, 2011).

Adopting International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes has been one approach among schools seeking to promote global competencies (Brunold-Conesa, 2010; Hill, 2012; White, 2012). Though IB has gained worldwide prominence with 4,145 schools across 149 countries (IBO, 2015), the variables that contribute to or constrain IB access among students in primary or secondary public schools remain unknown. In this study, I examined whether school-level poverty and school remoteness associate with a reduced likelihood of offering IB in U.S. public schools. I hypothesized that school remoteness would be a factor of greater magnitude than school-level poverty.

Using a quasi-experimental design and a novel approach to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics’(NCES) urban-centric locale categories (see Table 1), I matched each of 422 U.S. public IB schools with comparisons schools (N = 844) on three bases: state, grade span (e.g., K-3, 6-8, 9-12, etc.), and total number of students. I detected fine-grained differences in variations between schools on the basis of proximity by modifying the NCES scale, avoiding the false urban-rural dichotomy frequently presented in educational research (Coladarci, 2007).

Despite IB’s reputation of being an elite club (Doherty, 2009; Paris, 2003), hierarchical logistic regression showed poverty to have little effect in these data. Instead, analyses of main and interaction effects supported hypotheses of urban and suburban advantages alongside disadvantages in fringe, distant, and remote settings. I report descriptive statistics in Table 2 and regression models in Tables 3 and 4. Implications for privileging opportunities on the basis of geography, as well as policy recommendations to address disparities, are discussed.