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ERIC Number: ED567054
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 24
The Uneven Implementation of Universal School Policies: Maternal Education and Florida's Mandatory Grade Retention Policy
LiCalsi, Christina; Ozek, Umut; Figlio, David
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness
Research consistently demonstrates a strong, positive relationship between parents' socioeconomic status and children's educational achievement. This achievement gap is already present when children enter school in kindergarten and, despite the numerous policies aimed at leveling the educational playing field for disadvantaged students, it does not dissipate as children progress in their schooling (Duncan & Magnuson, 2011). Universal educational policies are a popular tool to address inequalities, with the underlying belief being that disparities can be overcome by holding all students to the same high standards and ensuring that all families have access to the same opportunities. However, these policies may be ineffective--and may actually exacerbate inequality--if families of high-socioeconomic status are better able to advocate for their children, make informed decisions, circumvent policy, or take advantage of opportunities in their children's schooling. There is mounting evidence that parents' behavior regarding their child's schooling does in fact differ depending on socioeconomic status. Despite the potential for socioeconomic differences in parental knowledge, preferences, and behaviors to exacerbate inequality, there is little large scale empirical evidence on the impact of parents' socioeconomic status in the face of a broad policy that is intended to be enforced universally. The current examples from the literature have consisted of situations that either require an active choice by parents, in the case of school choice, or are cases where parents can choose to intervene regarding discretionary school decisions not based on formal policy. This paper builds upon the prior research into socioeconomic status, parental behavior, and academic achievement, by exploring the idea that due to these socioeconomic differences in behavior, seemingly universal educational policies may be differentially enforced for students of different backgrounds. The authors examine whether a statewide policy enacted in Florida in 2002, mandating that promotion to the fourth grade be conditional upon meeting a minimum standard of reading, resulted in differential retention dependent on mothers' level of education. Maternal education is used as the defining indicator of socioeconomic status because it has been found to be the strongest predictor of children's academic achievement (Haveman & Wolfe, 1995) and the authors believe that the mechanisms which would likely lead to differential exemption, namely having the knowledge, agency, and desire to intervene in the policy's implementation, are most likely to be impacted by maternal educational attainment. Tables and figures are appended.
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness. 2040 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Tel: 202-495-0920; Fax: 202-640-4401; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 3; Primary Education; Elementary Education; Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness (SREE)
Identifiers - Location: Florida