This concise introduction to the sociology of education demonstrates that differences between and within schools, homes, and peer groups are related in systemic ways to differences in educational outcomes. Addressing both empirical data and important theoretical concepts, it explores the impact that equality and achievement can have on academic success. Extensive coverage of thought-provoking topics, such as school size, tracking, reform and restructuring, youth cultures, parental involvement, and single parent households. The author examines equality and achievement in education, methodological issues, differences between homes, differences between schools, differences within schools, group differences and maximizing achievement and equality. For individuals interested in a concise introduction to sociology of education.
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This concise introduction to the sociology, of education demonstrates that differences between and within schools, homes, and peer groups are related in systemic ways to differences in educational outcomes. Addressing both empirical data and important theoretical concepts, it explores the impact that equality and achievement can have on academic success.
Equality and Achievement offers extensive coverage of thought-provoking topics—such as accountability and standards, school size, tracking, reform and restructuring, youth cultures, parental involvement, and single parent households. Over two-hundred new citations; more than thirty new empirical studies, and a streamlined presentation are included in this second edition of Equality and Achievement.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Most people sense that our educational system is in trouble. The clients of our schools—parents and students alike—realize that something beyond the control of individuals is wrong. Those on the front lines must constantly confront the reality that schools appear ineffective, that little knowledge of subject matter is gained over the course of a year, and that even less is retained in the long run. We are bombarded daily with studies and media reports demonstrating how little students learn and retain, across virtually every type of subject, and the increasing problems associated with student dropouts, misbehavior, and violence.
Teachers are experiencing profound frustration with their work. Their students are disinterested and ill-prepared, and their classrooms have come to be characterized by mediocrity and accommodation. Studies show that increasingly teachers wish that they had chosen some other career. An "oppositional" adolescent subculture has emerged, and it has now become sufficiently powerful that academic standards can only be as high as students will allow. And all of these problems are exacerbated by major transformations of the family that circumscribe the schools.
This crisis in schooling has precipitated a change in the way that we have come to explain human behavior within an educational framework. Heretofore, both professional and lay people sought answers to human problems from the field of psychology. A problem was defined as a problem of the individual. Today, most people realize that the problems of schooling are far beyond the control of individual students, teachers, administrators, or policy makers. The problems do not lie either within or between individuals, but rather between and within organizations and institutions. More precisely, the problems and the potential solutions are to be found in the rules and the policies of institutions and organizations which transcend individuals, and in the relationships between schools, families, and communities.
All of this points toward an "arrival" at last of the field of sociology on the educational front. Indeed, a central area of sociological expertise is the study of the influence of communities and organizations on human behavior. In fact, over the past fifty years, sociologists have amassed a vast storehouse of knowledge on what kinds of organizational arrangements work most effectively in schools and which ones do not work (see What Works, 1987).
The sociology of education is perhaps the richest domain in all of sociology. It focuses on a single social institution, part of which is a central large organization. At the same time, it is related in critical ways to the family, the economic and political systems, the mass media, and the mass culture. It has access to an abundance of recorded and relatively reliable and valid information regarding students, teachers, and administrators of this organization. Likewise, there is more than adequate information regarding the physical and social characteristics of the organization as a social unit, and of peripheral institutions such as the family. It has rather definitive starting and ending points, making longitudinal and some experimental research possible. There exists a highly developed and directly applicable theory base. It is perhaps the easiest way to teach or learn sociology in the broadest sense. For students in sociology, it can provide the easiest and most convincing materials favoring a sociological way of thinking. For students embarking on a career in education, it can provide important practical information about their chosen craft.
This book is an introduction to the sociology of education. It is not intended to cover the entire field. It does address, however, the central topics of the discipline—the sociological influences of school outcomes. This topic is sufficiently rich, complicated, broad, and important to merit a book of its own. In sociology of education (and social foundations of education) courses, students are interested in the study of "outcomes." Yet, they are often frustrated by the sheer magnitude of information and the complexities that arise regarding between and within school effects, "selection bias" in the study of school effects, the applicability of functional and conflict theories, and the relative effects of the home and the school. Thus, this book is designed to serve as a short core textbook which may be supplemented by (or supplementary to) other readings or activities in a one-semester course in either Sociology of Education or Social Foundations of Education.
The strategy employed in this book is to examine a selective set of studies and theories in the sociology of education. This strategy means that many studies and theories are excluded. Moreover, as I have indicated above, the book is selective in the topics that it covers. And the book has a decidedly empirical emphasis. I believe that readers will learn more about the topics that are covered when the presentation is ample rather than superficial. This is true even when readers may disagree with the analysis and/or the conclusions of some of the studies.
The book draws heavily upon the work of James Coleman. Although some readers may find this confining, I believe that Coleman's work is representative of the major issues and captures the major research questions in the field. The sociology of education is clearly more advanced in part because of his direct contributions, but also as a result of the many criticisms that have been raised in response to his work. Thus, much can be learned by simply reading the critical literature that surrounds nearly everything that Coleman wrote. The substantive issues in this book are presented within a simple "causal model" framework. The emphasis is on conceptualizing the relationships, rather than the numbers. Quantitative methodologists may fear that it will lead to an oversimplification of path analytic techniques and that students will be misinformed. Qualitative sociologists may feel that quantitative thinking is overemphasized. These fears are not trivial and they are not without some bases. The strategy here, however, is to help the student to conceptualize the process of schooling; it is not to sell a methodology Surely, anyone overly concerned about these matters can supplement the text with other points of view.
Some of my colleagues in the sociology of education may feel that I have oversimplified some issues that actually remain unresolved. Undoubtedly, this is true. The purpose of the book is to provide an introduction to the sociology of education. Nonetheless, I have made every effort to avoid misrepresenting or misleading and I believe that I have been successful in this endeavor. Some teachers may feel that the material is actually more complicated than they would prefer. To them, I would say that students are remarkably capable and that soft sociology can be its own burden.
Preface to the Second Edition
The second edition of Equality and Achievement is a faithful continuation of the first edition. The purpose is to make available the best empirical research on the sociology of education in a single volume that is readable and coherent to undergraduate and graduate students. One of the main advantages of the opportunity to produce a second edition is to remove some of the warts in the first edition, for which I am grateful. Readers should discover that the current edition improves and updates the 1997 version of the book. More than thirty new empirical studies are included and discussed in detail in the second edition, and over 200 new citations have been added. Moreover, the majority of the book now centers on the sociology of education in the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s.
Readers of this book who have read the first edition will find much improvement, but the basic framework has been retained, including the chapter titles. One chapter has been added that splits between school studies into the earlier studies and the current research. A great deal of the earlier material has been removed because it is no longer relevant or it has been shown to be inconsistent or simply not true. I have also removed extraneous material that I now believe was not in the mainstream of the sociology of education. I have not hesitated, however, to retain older material going back as far as 1951 that presents points of departure, theoretical ideas, and/or empirical findings that are relevant, verified, and essential to the formation of sound education policy in 2002.
Although much is new, I have retained some of the classic findings, many of which derive from the late James Coleman. Research on Catholic and public schooling conducted during the 1980s and early 1990s established a benchmark in the sociology of education. Coleman's theory of social capital, and later with Thomas Hoffer on functional communities, provide the student in sociology with more than just quality data and technical analysis. Rather, these are solid theoretical ideas that have provided the launching pad for later work. The fact that social capital is now a highly scrutinized concept is evidence of the enduring impact of Coleman. But this edition is also full of the new sociologists of education who demonstrate the enduring legacy of Coleman.
The book tries to tell a coherent story about how the sociology of education can be usefully employed in educational policy and administration. It reminds the reader in every chapter that the goals of formal schooling are both greater equality and higher achievement. It ties together studies that consistently show that school effects are greater for disadvantaged students. Every chapter points in the direction of a theory of social reproduction that occurs either before school, after school, during the summer, or during school. It tries to show the reader that educational research and policy are never simple—that research findings are often contradictory, often under-researched, and often not applied to educational policy because policy is often controlled by educational politics.
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