Focus on school or classroom: A multilevel analysis of complex school effects

Dr. Ran Zhao, Mr. Jing Yang and Professor Yuhong Du, Beijing Normal University

Traditional school value-added studies fall short in addressing the complex phenomenon of students’ academic performance, they have assessed the variation coming only from the schools and the pupils, or from the classes and the pupils, where the academic value-added of school-level and class-level are largely overestimated owing to the enrollment system and  internal stratification according to entrance scores in senior high school. Recent studies have shown that the analysis of academic performance could significantly benefit from additional complexity in the model structure, incorporating non-hierarchical and unexplored levels of variation. Using a quasi-random assignment of students into classes with tracking data of unified examinations in senior high schools and the administrative data from an entire city Y in China, this study implements a 4-level contextualized value-added model and shows how to avoid the masking of classroom effects found in the traditional models. Compared with traditional 2-level value-added model, 4-level contextualized value-added model has deprived the effect from school variation of the enrollment system and class variation caused by the hierarchical division within school according to the enrollment achievement, as well as the variation of the value-added from students’ learning fundamentals. We have also analyzed the effects of important structural factors such as peer effect and school type. School effectiveness evaluated by contextualized value-added model reveals the “net” impact of schools and classrooms on students’ academic performance.


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