Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Students Who Are Academically Successful

Sharlyn Ferguson
Teresa Kroeger

Academically resilient students are those students who are academically successful, despite coming from the socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds that have typically predicted poorer educational outcomes. These students are an important group to study because if policymakers can understand what factors may have contributed to their succeeding against the odds, then they may be better able to support similar students in improving their academic performance. Raising the performance of socioeconomically disadvantaged students benefits both those individual students and the equity of the system overall.

This brief uses 2011 eighth-grade data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to explore (1) how prevalent academically resilient students are across education systems and (2) what factors are associated with academic resilience within those systems.

Key Findings

  • Environments of high academic achievement appear to support academic resilience among disadvantaged students.
  • Students’ high educational aspirations appear to be the strongest and most consistent predictor of academic resilience; other student factors appeared to be predictive in multiple education systems, as well.
  • While not as consistent in predicting academic resilience as the student factors, school factors are also associated with academic resilience in multiple education systems.
  • Policies to increase academic resilience should account for education system contexts.