Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Application of Multilevel Latent Class Analysis to Identify Achievement and Socio-Economic Typologies in the 20 Wealthiest Countries

Academic journal article Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology

Application of Multilevel Latent Class Analysis to Identify Achievement and Socio-Economic Typologies in the 20 Wealthiest Countries

Article excerpt


There has been increased interest in cross-national comparisons of educational achievement, particularly using the data provided through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The growing tendency in the popular media is to characterize such comparisons by ranking nations based upon mean achievement test scores. However, recent work has demonstrated that the way in which students are organized in schools has a impact on student achievement. The current study demonstrated the utility of a relatively new statistical technique, the nonparametric latent class model, to investigate the cross national organization of schools and its relationship to student achievement and socio-economic status. The results demonstrated that indeed, it is not enough to simply compare mean achievement performance across countries, but rather that the ways in which nations organize students into schools is also associated with test performance. The results of this study highlight both the importance of understanding school organizational context, and the analytic power of the nonparametric latent class model.

Keywords: PISA, multilevel latent class analysis, academic achievement

1. Introduction

The role of school structure and the distribution of students within schools is an area of increasing research interest to those concerned with educational policy. In particular, research has demonstrated that the distribution of students by socio-economic status (SES) and achievement level is directly related to the academic performance of individual students within countries (Dronkers & Levels, 2007; Caldas & Bankston, 1997). Put another way, the overall school context matters when it comes to individual student achievement (De Fraine, van Damme, van Landeghem, Opdenakker, & Onghena, 2003). For example, research has shown that students who come from a relatively low SES background are likely to have higher academic achievement if they attend schools that have relatively higher mean SES than will those with similar SES attending low SES schools (Opdenakker & van Damme, 2001). Similarly, lower SES students attending schools with relatively higher mean achievement have demonstrated higher mean achievement than those of comparable background attending lower achieving schools (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2007). These patterns have been witnessed across multiple countries with a variety of academic achievement measures.

1.1 School Organization and Achievement

Recently there has been a great deal of interest in identifying the relative success of countries in terms of educational achievement. Boasting about one's school probably dates back to the beginning of schools, just as boasting about one's country probably dates back to the creation of the second country. Claims of more "spirit" and being #1 have been replaced by serious efforts to compare schools and countries by using testing. In an attempt to better understand international differences in educational performance and the contexts that impact it, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been testing thousands of (15 year-old) students in over 65 countries for much of the last decade. Recent reports herald Finland as the winner in the international race to the top in education. Headlines proclaim: "Finnish far ahead of U.S. schools (Rubenstein, 2012)," "Schools we can envy (Ravitch, 2012)," and "What is it about Finland (Mansell, 2011)?" Much of the PISA research suggests that socioeconomic status (SES) might play a role in the academic success for Finland and other countries (Chia & Xihua, 2008; Milford, Ross, & Anderson, 2010). Chia and Xihua (2008) found that a 10% increase in family SES was associated with a five-point increase in PISA mathematics scores with a similar relationship in science. Among students in the U.S and Canada, an SES increase of one standard deviation equated to a 27-point increase on the scientific literacy portion of the 2006 PISA (Milford, Ross, & Anderson, 2010). …

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