Do peers and institutional resources affect academic achievement? Elementary school students in Nevada
AuthorRussell, Janice Russell
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What happens when children from disadvantaged families get to school? The "Matthew Effect" or Path Dependence Theory posits that through stigmatization processes and resource deficit, children from disadvantaged families enter school on a trajectory of academic failure for which schools cannot (or at least do not) compensate. By contrast, the Compensatory Growth Model, or Convergence Theory, posits that schools provide and embody cognitive resources, social support, and value emphases on achievement rather than ascription at an intensity that enables children from disadvantaged families to converge their academic performance to the norms of children from more advantaged homes. The data for this study are measurements on a complete cohort of Nevada School children who were followed from school to school from third grade through fifth grade. Multilevel modeling estimates the effects of students' individual circumstances (student-level characteristics), the effects of the social composition of the student's school (school-level characteristics), and the effects of resources in the student's school (more school-level resources), with particular attention to how these characteristics effect math achievement across the three years of the study. The results provide partial support for both theories, with the Matthew Effect largely characterizing the experience of African American students and students, mostly disabled, on Individual Education Plans, but by contrast, Convergence Theory better approximating the experience of Hispanic students.