Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Sociology

Committee Chair

Dusten Hollist

Commitee Members

June Ellestad, Kathy Kuipers, Stephanie Wasta


academic achievement, education, neighborhood, social capital, social disorganization theory


University of Montana


Current federal education law places the responsibility of the academic achievement of students with schools while ignoring other social factors that might influence the educational outcomes of students. Students are part of a complex social system that both enable and constrain their development and behavior. If we are to look at ways to improve academic programs, it is imperative we examine the different social systems to which students are exposed, including neighborhood, family, peer groups, and educational systems, in order to understand their role in assessing school accountability efforts. This study uses an integrated framework of social disorganization theory and social capital theory as the theoretical basis for examining the influence of a broader social system, such as neighborhoods, on the academic development and success of students, while accounting for how the interrelationships between schools, families, and peer groups contribute to that success. The data for this analysis is taken from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002/2004 (ELS:2002), a national longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The ELS:2002 dataset is comprised of tenth graders first surveyed in 2002 with a follow-up survey of those same students in the twelfth grade conducted in 2004. It also contains information gathered from parents, teachers, and principals. Ordinary least squares regression is used to evaluate the ability of the measures of neighborhood, family, school, and student social capital in predicting the variations in scores on academic achievement as measured by standardized math tests. The results of this study indicate that without the consideration of both structural and individual-level factors and their relationship to one another, our understanding of the educational process is incomplete. In assessing school accountability efforts, it is important to adopt a holistic approach in examining all factors that influence the educational outcomes for students. Limitations of the current study and recommendations for future studies are discussed.



© Copyright 2007 Floy O. Scott