A Look at Educational Inequalities: K-12

Monday Jun 03 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm
ANGU 437

Session Code: EDU1
Session Format: Regular
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Education
Session Categories: Regular Session

Educational inequalities are a central focus of sociological inquiry. Considering that K-12 education is mandatory in Canada, it is important to build a working knowledge of emerging and continuing forms of inequality in that sector. This session invites empirical papers on early educational and family processes that generate disparities in schooling outcomes, particularly by social class. We encourage presenters to link dynamics producing inequalities in schooling to policy options in education, and to take a frank and evidence-based approach. Tags: (In)equality, Children And Youth, Education

Organizers: Jessica Rizk, University of Waterloo, Scott Davies, OISE


Janice Aurini, Sociology and Legal Studies; Roger Pizarro Milian, Data, Equity and Policy in Education Lab, University of Toronto; Rodney Missaghian, University of Waterloo

Educational Status Hierarchies, After-School Activities, and Parenting Logics: Lessons from Canada

This paper draws from American research on “concerted cultivation” to examine the parenting logics of 41 upper-middle-class parents in Toronto, Canada. We consider not only how parents structure their childrens after-school time (what parents do), but also how the broader ecology of schooling informs their parenting logic (how they rationalize their actions). We find that parenting practices mirror American research on concerted cultivation. Upper-middle-class families enroll their children in multiple lessons and cultivate their children’s skills. However, unlike their American counterparts, Canadian parenting logics are not stratification-oriented or guided by a desire to access elite universities.  Canada’s relatively ‘flat’ stratification system of higher education, where prestige differences between universities are minimal, prompts the emergence of a more expressive parenting ethos. Our findings draw attention to the “macro foundations” of social behavior by articulating the connection between parenting logics and educational status hierarchies. We conclude by considering the implications of cross-national differences to theories of parenting and social stratification.

Shahar Dangur-Levy, Western University; Robert Andersen, Western University; Anders Holm, Western University

Mathematics Self Efficacy: The Role of School Characteristics and Socioeconomic Status

Utilizing data from two waves of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS; 1988 and 1990), this study examines the role of school characteristics in determining mathematics self efficacy of US high-school students. Specifically, the study examines whether the school emphasis towards mathematics is associated with different levels of students mathematics self efficacy, and whether students from different types of schools exhibit different levels of mathematics self efficacy. Results from OLS regression models indicate that the higher the schools emphasis toward mathematics, the higher the students mathematics self efficacy. In addition, findings demonstrate the importance of type of school to the students level of mathematics efficacy, such that student from different types of schools exhibit different levels of mathematics efficacy. Finally, the findings show that the association between the schools emphasis towards mathematics and mathematics self efficacy is higher among students from low socioeconomic status than among students from high socioeconomic status.

Scott Davies, OISE; Angran Li, University of Connecticut; Janice Aurini, Sociology and Legal Studies; Cathlene Hillier, Nipissing University

The Puzzles of Parental Involvement in Education: Mechanisms, Causes, and Contexts

Most educational researchers intuit that parental involvement and aspirations for education should translate into educational success. These beliefs speak to a half century of research that has demonstrated the importance of family background for student outcomes. Parental involvement has been much-researched in education for decades, subject to several literature reviews (e.g. Henderson and Mapp 2002; Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler 1997; Jeynes 2005; Pomerantz et al. 2007). This literature illuminated various interactions between families and schools and motivated a branch of policy aimed at boosting parent engagement in education. However, despite its vitality and popularity, we contend that this literature has not clearly identified _just how_ parental involvement and aspirations facilitate school success. Namely, the social mechanisms, causal pathways, and contexts by which parental involvement and aspirations generate educational outcomes have not been adequately sorted out. This problem is exemplified by the puzzling empirics that have emerged in research. Connections between parental involvement and educational outcomes thus remain a “black box” in which the exact processes by which family “inputs” are converted into educational “outputs” remain obscure. What is now needed to pry open this black box, we argue, are not piecemeal changes such as new statistical techniques, measures, or theoretical vocabularies. Instead, a new holistic and integrated framework is needed, one that can provide comprehensive explanations of how parental actions at the micro level interconnect with meso-level school processes and macro-level institutions. Our review will build a framework by re-organizing this large, multi-method and multi-disciplinary literature into three analytic concepts –_ mechanisms_, _causation_, and _contexts. _Our review will be thematic, aiming to 1) identify social mechanisms, 2) infer causal links, and 3) sort out contextual effects. We will identify the most effective research designs and methods in this area, summarize their findings, and point to promising directions for future research.