Local advantage: Community resources, teacher attributes, and student mathematics achievement in rural northwest China
In China, a growing awareness that many areas have been left behind during an era characterized by market reform has raised concerns about the impact of community disadvantage on schooling. In these papers, I use data from the Gansu Survey of Children and Families (GSCF-1) to examine the relationship between student achievement and the characteristics of communities and their local schools in one of China's poorest provinces. The GSCF-1 examines children's schooling, achievement, and welfare in the context of rural poverty by integrating a primary survey of children with separate instruments that measure family, village, and school environments. In my study, I investigate an analytic sample of 436 children linkable to secondary samples of mothers, homeroom teachers, school principals, and village leaders.
In the first paper, I investigate whether villages exert distinct influences on student achievement. Does living in a particular community provide children with an educational advantage? Do economic and social resources in the community affect student achievement? I begin by investigating the “fixed-effects” of village on student achievement. My analyses indicate that controlling for student background, the village in which a child lives influences his or her mathematics achievement. Next, building on these results, I address my second question by replacing the village “fixed-effects” by their equivalent random-effects to explore whether specific community characteristics influence student achievement. My results reveal that children who live in villages with a higher per pupil expenditure from non-governmental resources have higher mathematics achievement, net of controls. Similarly, children who live in villages with higher levels of social capital have higher math scores on average.
In the second paper, I use random-effects analysis to examine whether teacher attributes make a difference for student mathematics achievement in rural China. What kind of teacher characteristics matter? And what role might teacher attributes play in linking community disadvantage to student achievement? These analyses demonstrate not only that teachers matter for student mathematics achievement, but also reveal a complex picture of what kind of teacher characteristics make a difference in resource-constrained rural schools.