Date of Award

Winter 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Jack E. Robinson

Committee Director

Mona J. E. Danner

Committee Member

Edward Neukrug

Committee Member

Petra E. Snowden

Committee Member

Jane Hager


Over the years, the public education system has been transformed by outside political and societal forces to provide an equal opportunity for all students. Investigations of the public education system were not consistent and yielded divergent results on how to improve adolescent academic achievement. These divergent results were caused by different operationalizations of variables, data analytical procedures that possibly provided biased parameter estimates, and a failure to use a comprehensive theory. Although these results were inconsistent, the latest transformation of the public education system currently involves holding schools, administrators, parents, and students accountable for learning.

The measurement of success in adolescent academic achievement was reflected by the results of standardized tests. Throughout the relevant literature, a strong link can be found between adolescent development, adolescent academic achievement, and adolescent social deviancy. In past and current research, the community social disorganization theory was used to explain variance in adolescent social deviancy.

The purpose of this dissertation was twofold. First was conducting explanatory research using community contextual variables to investigate adolescent academic achievement. Second was the extension of multilevel analyses to investigate the school within its social context of the community. This dissertation employed community social disorganization theory to explain variations in adolescent academic achievement as measured by standardized tests. In addition to employing theory, this dissertation utilized structural equation modeling and multilevel analyses to reduce biased parameter estimates and to investigate the relationships between community contextual variables. These procedures were also used to determine whether contextual variables at the school level or the school district level influenced adolescent academic achievement and which was more significant.

The first structural equation model of the school district for school year 1997–98 accounted for 68% of the variance in adolescent academic achievement. This model was replicated on a different school year and it accounted for 75% of the variance in adolescent academic achievement. Next, contextual variables at the school level were modeled and 65% of the variance was accounted for. A multilevel analysis with structural equation modeling was used with both school district and school contextual variables included. Within the school district, 80% of the relative variance in adolescent academic achievement was accounted for and at the between school district level 97% of the relative variance was accounted for. Although these findings of the multilevel analyses should be interpreted cautiously (Bollen, 1989; Gustafsson & Stahl, 2000; Joreskog, 1999b), this study advances the use of multilevel analyses.

These strong models hold great promise for investigating adolescent academic achievement using the community social disorganization theory along with appropriate statistical methods of structural equation modeling and multilevel analyses. The multilevel analyses must be replicated with future data to provide confirmation and support of the current results.


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