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Jennifer Craw
by Jennifer Craw

Recently the OECD released a new report, Low-Performing Students: Why They Fall Behind and How to Help Them Succeed. Among its findings, the report shows a relationship between higher rates of socioeconomic diversity within schools and better student performance on PISA. Many countries where schools are more economically and socially diverse not only tended to have lower rates of low-performing students on PISA, but also higher rates of top-performing students.

The graphic below shows which countries among those who participated in PISA 2012 had above average rates of high-performing students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (the OECD refers to these as Resilient Students), top-performing students on PISA overall, and levels of socioeconomic diversity within schools (the OECD labels this social inclusion*). The top ten performing countries from PISA 2012 are highlighted in white. Almost all of these top performers have high levels of socioeconomic diversity within schools as well as many resilient and top-performing students. The United States appears outside the graphic , as the education system here has low rates of resilient students and top-performing students and average rates of socioeconomic diversity within schools.


While the graphic shows that not all education systems with high levels of socioeconomic diversity achieve high rates of resilient and top-performing students, it is also clear that among the top performers on PISA 2012, high performance often goes hand in hand with socioeconomic diversity within schools. According to the OECD this is because schools where there is more socioeconomic diversity among students and less grouping by ability between classes tend to provide a better learning environment for struggling students.

*The OECD determines socioeconomic diversity within schools by determining the between-school variation in the PISA index of social, economic and cultural status of students, divided by the sum of the between-school variation in students’ socio-economic status and the within-school variation in students’ socio-economic status.