The Effects of School Racial and SES Composition on K-12 Reading and Language Arts Outcomes: A Metaregression Analysis

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:06 AM
Room: F201
Oral Presentation
Roslyn MICKELSON , Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Martha BOTTIA , University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Savannah LARIMORE , University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
Structural vulnerability theory proposes that educational outcomes emerge as organizational features of schools interact with students' individual characteristics. The organizational feature of interest in this paper is school racial, ethnic, and social class (SES) composition. This paper asks the following question:  "Does school racial and SES composition affect individuals' K-12 reading and language arts achievement?”  To answer it, the authors conduct a metaregression of the US social science literature published in the last 20 years on the relationship between reading and language arts outcomes and the racial, ethnic, and SES composition of the K-12 schools students attend. The authors employ a two-level hierarchical linear model (HLM) to synthesize approximately 75 primary studies with 200 regression effects. The tentative answer to this research question is a qualified yes; students attending schools with concentrations of disadvantaged racial minority and/or poor peers achieve less academic progress than their otherwise comparable counterparts in more racially integrated or low poverty schools.  Preliminary results indicate that attending a racially isolated disadvantaged minority school has a statistically significant negative effect on reading and language arts achievement. This relationship is moderated by the size of the sample in the primary study and by the way the independent variable (school racial/ethnic composition) was operationalized. Effects vary for different racial and ethnic minority groups and the effects are stronger in secondary compared to elementary grades. The emergence and widening of the race gaps as students move through the grades suggest that the association of racial and social class isolation with reading and language arts performance compounds over time, illustrating how school composition effects reflect the dynamics of structural vulnerability theory.