School future set by zip code, not performance

News Brief: July/August 2010

The likelihood an Austrian school child will attend Gymnasium has much more to do with the address of their elementary school than their grades, according to a new TIMSS study released Jun. 9 by the National Institute for Education Research, Innovation and Development (Bifie) in Vienna.

Nearly half of the difference in school choice (46%) correlated to the size of the community in which the elementary school was located, the researchers said. The study also revealed that the education level of the parents was the next highest predictor of an elementary school child’s decision to enter Gymnasium.

While the performance of children entering Gymnasium (university preparatory school) is on average higher than those entering the Hauptschule (general high school), “there are significant overlaps,” the study said, “making it clear that a child’s actual school performance is only a limited factor determining the decision.” The authors noted schools with consistently high results where not one child went on to a university-directed secondary school.

The TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) studies are conducted every four years by the Amsterdam-based International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), that measures performance between school students of different countries to assess policy effects on learning.

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