SCHOOL LOCATION AND EDUCATIONAL QUALITY: FINDINGS FROM INTERNATIONAL LARGE-SCALE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT STUDIES AND NATIONAL SCHOOL LEAVING EXAMINATIONS
Among the many factors which may have impact on educational quality is the factor of school location. Two important sources which provide data about differences between urban and rural schools are the results of international large-scale student achievement studies (ILSAs) and national testing/school leaving examinations. Since 1995 Lithuania participates in IEA TIMSS study, and since 2006 – in OECD PISA study. Results indicate that throughout the five PISA cycles (2006-2018) the achievements of students in rural schools were the lowest compared to the results of students in small and large towns as well as in cities. In PISA 2018 the differences between student achievement in rural and city schools exceeded 60 points (Zabulionis, 2020). Similar differences between urban and rural schools were also observed in TIMSS 8th grade mathematics study (ŠMM, 2016). To ensure the accessibility and quality of educational services in Lithuania, special attention was paid to a student‘s residential location (Broer, Bai, Fonseca, 2019). The results of national testing of 8th grade students showed that since 2003 student achievements in cities and regional centers remained more or less at the same level while the results of students in small towns and villages improved (ŠMM, 2011).
One of the possible reasons of the observed differences in findings can be explained by the fact that goals and methodologies of ILSAs and national testing/school leaving examinations differ. In order to further investigate the problem of rural/urban differences in relation to student achievement, we analyzed the results of five cycles of maturity examinations in mathematics and Lithuanian language - from 2013-2014 school year to 2017-2018 school year. Differences of student achievement in urban and rural schools were compared according to school location in five groups: the capital city, cities, large towns, small towns and rural areas. We found that the median of assessments is statistically significantly smaller in rural schools when compared to the city schools. However, the whole distribution does not prove that situation in rural areas is essentially worse than in the cities, as there are also significant differences in student achievement between the city schools. The main conclusion of our research is that in order to gain a better insight into the impact of school location on educational quality it is not enough to analyze only the characteristics of the center (median/average); we also need to consider the whole distribution. In order to improve the educational quality, policy measures should be aimed at diminishing differences between schools located both in rural and urban areas.
This research is funded by the European Social Fund according to the activity ‘Improvement of researchers’ qualification by implementing world-class R&D projects’ of Measure No. 09.3.3-LMT-K-712. The project No. DOTSUT-39 (09.3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0018) / LSS-250000-57.
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