Effects of School Racial Composition on K-12 Mathematics Outcomes: A Metaregression Analysis

Issue/Topic: Curriculum--Mathematics; Equity
Author(s): Mickelson, Roslyn; Bottia, Martha; Lambert, Richard
Organization(s): University of North Carolina
Publication: Review of Educational Research
Published On: 3/1/2013

Recently published social science research suggests that students attending schools with concentrations of disadvantaged minority populations achieve less academic progress than their otherwise comparable counterparts in more racially balanced or integrated schools, but to date no meta-analysis has estimated the effect size of school racial composition on mathematics outcomes.

To review the social science literature published on the relationship between mathematics outcomes and the racial composition of the K-12 schools students attend


  • School racial isolation has a small statistically significant negative effect on overall building-level mathematics outcomes.
  • Although it is small, the effect size is substantially meaningful.
  • The effects are stronger in secondary compared to elementary grades.
  • Racial gaps widen as students age.

Policy Implications/Recommendations:

  • If racial isolation is a factor in creating and maintaining achievement gaps, the nation's failure to address this trend will be problematic for any other reform's likely success.
  • Findings are important for public policy because organizational arrangement of schools is, in theory, more amenable to change through policy choices than student-level factors such as motivation or aptitude, or family characteristics such as cultural norms, family structure, parental education, or income, all well-known contributing factors to mathematics outcomes.
  • These findings provide an empirical warrant for educators, policymakers, and parents to reconsider the possible benefits of creating schools with diverse groups of students learning mathematics together.
  • The findings from this metaregression analysis are potentially important for the judiciary, education policymakers, and practitioners who use empirical research in their deliberative processes.
  • In the Supreme Court case, Parents Involved, five of the nine justices reaffirmed the goals of promoting integration and avoiding racial isolation in K-12 education as compelling government interests. The Supreme Court decision in Parents Involved provides educators and policymakers with the legal imprimatur to act on the policy implications reported in this article.
  • To the extent that the overall mathematics performance of U.S. students is enhanced and racial gaps in K-12 mathematics achievement are narrowed through the avoidance of racially segregated minority public schools, there is also a practical aspect to integrated education.

Research Design:
Metaregression analysis

K-12 students in 25 primary studies

Year data is from:
Past 20 years


Data Collection and Analysis:


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