Presenter: Anne Christine Holtmann (EUI)

When: Tuesday, 19 April 2016, 13h30-15h00

Where: Seminar Room 2, Badia Fiesolana

Abstract: Why are so many children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families left behind their peers from better-off families over the early school years? Do they fall behind because they receive less support at home or because they attend worse schools? Using the ECLS-K 2011 study, I find that the achievement gap between students from socioeconomically disadvantaged families and better-off students increases during the summer holidays, whereas it remains rather constant during the school year. This finding suggests that achievement gaps are mainly caused by unequal family conditions, whereas schools equalize performance: Without schools, gaps would grow even further. The assumption behind the comparisons of summer and school year learning is that families act the same way during the school year as they do during summer. To test this assumption, I explore what children do during the summer, whether family behaviour is different during the school year and during the summer and how this varies by social background. When comparing students with different SES but similar initial performance, SES-achievement gaps grow stronger during the school year than during the summer – mainly for low-performing students. One possible explanation is that during the summer, better-off parents relax, whereas during the school year, they provide support with homework – especially if their child does not perform well in school. The alternative school-based explanation would be that socioeconomically advantaged students attend better schools because they live in richer neighbourhoods – no matter whether they perform well or not. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students, on the other hand, might have the opportunity to attend good schools only if they have ambitious parents and are especially bright.