Education Gap, Integration Gap
Students with a migration background (SMBs) tend to perform more poorly in school than their native-born peers. Factors that have been demonstrated to affect this discrepancy in academic performance include language knowledge and family socio-economic resources. First-generation immigrant students therefore experience higher drop-out risks, lower academic performance, and higher risk of delayed educational careers or non-university oriented paths, consequently hampering their integration into the host society. But what role do teachers play in the reproduction of disadvantage? Triventi looked at national data on the whole population of students enrolled in the fifth and sixth grade in Italy in 2012 to investigate whether teachers grade SMBs less generously than native students with comparable academic skills, measured by standardised test scores in reading/Italian and mathematics. This data also included administrative information about students’ backgrounds, such as language spoken at home and family socio-economic characteristics. Triventi found a significant gap in midterm report card grades between native-born or mixed students and SMBs. SMBs who achieved similar standardised test scores nevertheless received lower average grades from teachers in both reading and mathematics. Both second-generation students with parents born abroad and first-generation students experienced this large penalty. The most significant factors explaining these discrepancies in midterm grade outcomes were found to be language spoken at home and family socio-economic resources. Nevertheless, more than 50 per cent of the grading gap was not accounted for by the factors included in the data. Consequently, it is possible that other factors such as discrimination, either explicit or implicit, could play a role in explaining the difference in grades teachers give native students and SMBs.