Jörg Dollmann, Frida Rudolphi
Classroom composition and achievement. Do context or friends matter more?

5th Norface Migration Conference, Berlin, November 01st to November 02nd, 2013

Performance differences between students of different social and ethnic backgrounds are an important factor for generating inequality in educational attainment. However, not only individual and family characteristics contribute to these achievement gaps, but also the composition of pupils in the class room. Pupils in classes with a high share of classmates with low socio economic background, with an overall lower achievement level and with a different ethnic (and linguistic) background usually achieve poorer than their counterparts in more advanced settings. However, the interplay between a high share of students with lowsocioeconomic background, low achievement level and high proportions of immigrant children often makes it difficult to disentangle separate effects of these compositional factors on achievement inequalities, because these are often closely intertwined. We aim to contribute theoretically and empirically to this debate by using data of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in Four European Countries (CILS4EU). In this survey, 14 year old pupils with and without an immigrant background were interviewed in more than 800 school classes in England, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. By using this comparative data, we are also able to address questions concerning the impact of the educational system on these compositional effects: Do composition effects vary between more integrated (like Sweden and England) and more differentiated educational systems (like Germany and the Netherlands)? Furthermore, we aim at targeting some of the relevant mechanisms contributing to these contextual effects. Is it really the overall composition of the school class that affects the individual achievement, or are the friends in the classes more influential – naturally with higher chances of having poor achieving friends with an overall lower socioeconomic or an immigrant background in such more disadvantaged contexts. By using Social Network Analysis, we try to single out the effects of the relevant peers in the classrooms from the overall classroom effects on the individual achievement.