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This paper studies school administration and teachers discourse - in schools with different students' social-economic status and educational outcomes. School staff views on school effectiveness and the role of school for students’ educational career and social mobility are in focus.
The paper is based on the analysis of series of interviews with school principals, their assistants and teachers. Interviews were held in 2015 in 30 Russian schools that took part in a Trajectories in Education and Careers Study (TREC - https://trec.hse.ru/en). TREC is a unique longitudinal study. As part of it, in 2012 PISA test was conducted on the TIMSS 2011 sample in Russia. Thus same students (same schools) took part in TIMSS in 2011 (8th grade) and PISA in 2012 (9th grade). School principals, teachers and students were surveyed in both waves of the TREC study. These data provide rich information about schools’ social context, school climate and teaching practices as well as about students’ families background and their TIMSS and PISA scores.
Based on TREC study data we selected 30 schools. Among them were the schools that showed unexpectedly high average PISA scores (the scores higher than it was predicted by students’ SES and TIMSS results). We also selected schools with unexpectedly low PISA scores and some schools with average PISA scores that are well predicted by students’ SES and TIMSS results. For the analysis purpose we used mixed methods design. Analysis of interviews is combined with quantitative description of schools’ social context, students’ background and test scores provided by TREC study data.
Our results show that in most schools support of students’ socialization and enhancement of their chances for life success are regarded as school mission. The same time, in more economically advantaged communities in urban settlements, principals focus more on students’ academic outcomes and higher education attainment as a mean for success in life and as an estimate of school effectiveness. These principals and teachers pay more attention to school prestige – position in schools rankings, participation in federal projects, grants received by a school etc. These efforts also help to gain additional financing. On the other hand, schools located in poor communities in urban and rural places often pay less attention to students’ academic outcomes and do not try to compete for a better position in rankings. In these schools, principals estimate school effectiveness in terms of school climate comfort. They have lower expectations for students’ educational attainments and position in the labor market. They often put the blame for insufficient educational outcomes on students’ background, “genotype” and families. In such schools, teachers totally concentrate on helping weak students to pass end-of-school examinations. At the same time these schools deprive the brighter students of the chance to get higher scores and to raise their self-concept. Finally, most schools try push lower social class students to the vocational track after the 9th grade.