School and Neighborhood Context and School-Year and Summer Achievement
Focusing on the developmentally important kindergarten and first-grade years, Borman analyzes stratification of individual students' learning trajectories by poverty and race/ethnicity. He assesses the contextual effects of neighborhood and school poverty and racial/ethnic composition on these learning outcomes. From theoretical and methodological perspectives, Borman conceives of the problem as one that is hierarchical, with both a micro component (i.e., the student) and macro component (i.e., the school and neighborhood). The primary statistical tool used to disentangle these factors is called a multilevel model. It takes into account this hierarchical structure. Borman uses the multilevel model to measure three outcomes: (1) learning outcomes at the start of kindergarten; (2) learning outcomes during the kindergarten and first-grade school years; and (3) learning outcomes during the summer between kindergarten and first grade. The study cross-classifies students by the neighborhood in which they live and the school that they attend, and examines the extent to which both neighborhoods and schools explain differences across these three learning outcomes. Using measures of the poverty concentration and racial/ethnic composition of neighborhoods and schools, Borman attempts to explain between-neighborhood and between-school differences in the achievement outcomes. This study draws on the conventional wisdom that suggests children from high-poverty schools and neighborhoods are worse off academically than their peers from schools and neighborhoods with more affluent compositions. In addition to this popular wisdom, the study draws on sociological theories and analytical models that explain and measure these so-called neighborhood and school 'contextual effects.'