School Segregation and Math Achievement: A Mixed-Method Study on the Role of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

From Section:
Theories & Approaches
Mar. 15, 2013

Source: Teacher College Record, Volume 115, No. 3, p. 1-50, 2013.

The purpose of this study is to integrate research on the effects of school segregation with that on self-fulfilling prophecies by examining the mediating role of teacher expectancies regarding the impact of school composition on pupils’ math achievement.
First, the authors investigate whether teachers’ teachability expectations are related to the socioeconomic and ethnic composition of the school.
Second, they investigate whether and how the effects of school composition can be explained by self-fulfilling prophecies.
They also investigate the role of pupils’ sense of academic futility.

Data were collected through a survey of 2,845 pupils and 706 teachers in 68 Flemish (Belgian) primary schools and in-depth interviews with 26 teachers in five schools.


The analysis shows that teachers’ teachability expectations are lower in schools with a high share of nonnative and working-class pupils and that these teachability expectations have an indirect impact on pupils’ achievement through pupils’ feelings of academic futility.
The findings also reveal that the low teacher expectations in these schools are largely triggered by alleged linguistic deficiencies and problematic language use of the pupils and that school staff persistently communicate their preference for Dutch monolingualism to pupils.


The results indicate that socioeconomic desegregation may not be needed if it is possible to reform schools with a larger share of working-class pupils.
Schools that produce more favorable teachability expectations are recommended.
In particular, teachers’ attitudes and beliefs regarding pupils’ linguistic backgrounds might be the focus of educational reforms.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Mathematics achievement | Mixed methods studies | Primary schools | School segregation