The Impact of Economic Disadvantage on Academic Achievement in Hawaii: A Multi-level Analysis

By Shuqiang Zhang.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation in the US requires that all students in public schools, whether economically disadvantaged or not, meet the proficiency standards by the year of 2014. The state of Hawaii started the NCLB-mandated assessment by administering standards-based reading and mathmatics tests to 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th graders in 2002. Using the 2002 state-wide assessment as the baseline, a multi-level analysis was conducted to estimate the achievement gaps between the disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups totalling approximately 45,000 students.

At the student level, disadvantage was defined according the US federal government’s guidelines of eligibility for free or reduced price school lunch. At the school level, the percentage of eligible students within each school was calculated. A hierarchical linear model (HLM) was developed that allowed the effect of student-level disadvantage to be conditioned on the poverty level of the school. Across the four grade levels and two subject areas, a consistent multi-level model was arrived at, which provided the most accurate estimates so far of the negative effects due to student- as well as school-level disadvantage in Hawaii. Those estimates serve as the baseline against which the state of Hawaii’s annual progress is to be measured in compliance with the NCLB mandate.

Further discussions in the paper compared the latest HLM findings against estimates derived from the traditional student- or school-level analysis and explored the policy implications in how to evaluate schools with a high percentage of disadvantaged students.

Keywords: Equity, Large Scale Assessment, No Child Left Behind, Hierarchical Linear Modeling, Multi-level Analysis

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp.367-382. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.300MB).

Dr. Shuqiang Zhang

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Prof. Zhang received his undergraduate degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Hawaii in the US. In addition to teaching courses in assessment, research design and data analysis for graduate students from various schools and colleges across the University of Hawaii campus, he has maintained a particular interest in standards-based large-scale assessment and served as advisor or evaluator to multiple educational institutions in the US.


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