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Working paper
Tommaso Agasisti, Sergio Longobardi

2012/39 : Inequality in education: can Italian disadvantaged students close the gap? A focus on resilience in the Italian school system

The relationship between socio-economic status and student achievement is well documented and a widespread literature indicates that students from more advantaged backgrounds perform better at school. Despite this relationship, several international assessments have highlighted that in each country there is a relevant proportion of “resilient students”, i.e. students who come from a disadvantaged socio-economic background but achieve relatively high levels of educational performance. In this paper, the determinants of resilience in the Italian educational system are investigated analysing data from the OECD-PISA 2009 edition, with a specific focus on the role of school-level variables that could help more students succeed. The aim is to target a specific category of resilient students, namely those who are characterised by a low socioeconomic background both at family level and at school level; therefore a novel statistical procedure is proposed to derive a sample of disadvantaged students who attend disadvantaged schools. Afterwards a multilevel logistic approach is adopted to determine which characteristics of students, families and schools, tend to give disadvantaged students a higher probability of becoming a resilient. Our results confirm that not only individual-level characteristics, but also some school factors (i.e. extracurricular activities and school leadership) play a role in this direction, suggesting policy and managerial implications.

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