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The complexity of school and neighbourhood effects and movements of pupils on school differences in models of educational achievement

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Traditional studies of school differences in educational achievement use multilevel modelling techniques to take into account the nesting of pupils within schools. However, educational data are known to have more complex non-hierarchical structures. The potential importance of such structures is apparent when considering the effect of pupil mobility during secondary schooling on educational achievement. Movements of pupils between schools suggest that we should model pupils as belonging to the series of schools that are attended and not just their final school. Since these school moves are strongly linked to residential moves, it is important to explore additionally whether achievement is also affected by the history of neighbourhoods that are lived in. Using the national pupil database, this paper combines multiple membership and cross-classified multilevel models to explore simultaneously the relationships between secondary school, primary school, neighbourhood and educational achievement. The results show a negative relationship between pupil mobility and achievement, the strength of which depends greatly on the nature and timing of these moves. Accounting for pupil mobility also reveals that schools and neighbourhoods are more important than shown by previous analysis. A strong primary school effect appears to last long after a child has left that phase of schooling. The additional effect of neighbourhoods, in contrast, is small. Crucially, the rank order of school effects across all types of pupil is sensitive to whether we account for the complexity of the multilevel data structure.
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Keywords: Cross-classified models; Multilevel modelling; Multiple membership models; Pupil mobility; School effectiveness; Value-added models

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Bristol, UK

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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