Underprivileged classmates have no effect on later test scores

Summary

According to research carried out at the University of Leuven, middle class students in secondary school test the same whether they went to primary school with a large population of underprivileged children or not

Putting fears to rest

Contrary to assumptions, Flemish children who are enrolled in primary schools with a large number of underprivileged pupils later score the same on standard tests as those who attended schools with children from more middle-class backgrounds. The discovery is based on research carried out by Griet Vanwynsberghe at the University of Leuven.

Vanwynsberghe compared the scores and general academic performance of thousands of students in Flemish secondary schools who came from similar socio-economic backgrounds but had attended very different primary schools. The students who had attended schools with large populations of children from low socio-economic backgrounds scored the same as those who had attended schools with children from wealthier families.

“Seventeen-year-olds of similar backgrounds did as well in maths regardless of the populations of their primary schools,” said Vanwynsberghe.

Schools in Flanders with a majority of underprivileged children receive extra funding and other resources from the government. “The question is,” said Vanwynsberghe, “are the extra resources why the pupils do just as well over the long term or are these extra resources just not necessary?”

Photo courtesy My Machine Vlaanderen

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