Sociology of Education
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  Fall 2008 Newsletter American Sociological Association

In this issue:

Looking Back, Looking Forward: A Note from Claudia Buchmann, Chair

As I sit at my laptop, typing these words, memories of the Boston ASA meeting are fresh in my mind. The meeting was a great success, especially for our section, which under the able leadership of Steve Brint, past-chair, and David Baker, section session organizer, offered several interesting sessions. I recall a comment Floyd Hammack made at the business meeting that was so indicative of this success. He noted that the Sociology of Education sessions he attended were standing room only and populated by many people that he did not recognize. Clearly, our sessions are very popular and attract the attention of members and non-members alike! The section reception, sponsored by the American Institutes for Research, and the dinner that followed at the Rustic Kitchen, were great opportunities to connect with friends and colleagues and meet new ones. Jal Mehta and Suet-ling Pong played key roles in ensuring that the dinner was a delicious and fun event. The dinner, too, was nearly standing room only!

As we look forward to the year ahead, there is no doubt that this is an exciting time for our section. Thanks to the membership drive we launched in September, I am pleased to announce that we have 812 members in our section, up from 770 members last year! Let me extend a big welcome our new members and a big thank you to everyone who encouraged others to join our section. The 2009 ASA meeting in San Francisco on August 8-11 is taking shape; because we have more than 800 members now, our section has been allotted 5 sessions. Our section day is the first day of the meetings, Saturday August 8 th which means that all but two of our sessions will be held that day. The reception and dinner will also take place on Saturday evening; I know that Dan McFarland and Sara Goldrick-Rab, the certified "foodies" who are in charge of local arrangements, will find us a great venue with a delectable menu.

Throughout the country, education scholars and policymakers anticipate an exciting year ahead as President-Elect Barack Obama names a new Secretary of Education and his administration forges new educational policies and legislation. If you haven't done so already, take a look at the proposed agenda on education on the President-Elect's website . The website provides a broad outline on the vision of our President-elect and covers all levels of education. It also lets individuals submit ideas and views on educational issues. As scholars of education, we have an opportunity to make our voices heard on pressing educational issues during these changing times.

CONSIDER SUBMITTING A PAPER to the organizers of the following section sessions via the online submission system that will open December 1 st at the ASA website.

Schools, Families and Communities. Linda Renzulli, University of Georgia,

Research on schools, families or communities as well as the intersections among these institutions that advances understanding of educational processes, inequalities or broad sociological phenomena.

Education from Comparative and International Perspectives.
Evan Schofer, University of California-Irvine,

Cross-national or case-based studies from diverse contexts that advance or challenge current knowledge about education and societies.  

The Sociology of Higher Education. Eric Grodsky
, University of Minnesota,

Studies of access, experiences and outcomes as well as research on trends, culture and policies related to all types of higher education.

The Sociology of Education. Elizabeth Stearns
, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Research in Sociology of Education broadly defined.  

Sociology of Education Section Roundtables.
Ruth Lopez Turley, University of Wisconsin-Madison,


ASA 2009 San Francisco , CA

Arrangements are in the works for a special mini-conference on August 7 th for section members. It will focus on professionalization issues for young scholars as well as the future of our discipline in these changing times. More information will be available in the Spring 2009 Newsletter. The mini-conference organizers are Mitchell Stevens, Amy Binder and Elizabeth Armstrong.


ASA 2009 San Francisco , CA

Arrangements are in the works for a special mini-conference on August 7 th for section members. It will focus on professionalization issues for young scholars as well as the future of our discipline in these changing times. More information will be available in the Spring 2009 Newsletter. The mini-conference organizers are Mitchell Stevens, Amy Binder and Elizabeth Armstrong.

New Award Structure and Nominations for 2009 Section Awards

During 2008 the Section Council and members approved changes to the Section Awards. Under the prior structure, the Willard Waller Award was given for lifetime achievement, best book, and best published article on a rotating basis, The David Lee Stevenson Award was given to the graduate student paper. Beginning in 2009, the Section will make three annual awards:

The Pierre Bourdieu Award
This annual award is for the best book in the Sociology of Education published in 2007 or 2008. Please send nominations to the Award Committee Chair, Sigal Alon, University of Tel Aviv, email: The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2009.

The James Coleman Award
This annual award is for the best article published in the field of Sociology of Education in the years 2007-2008. Please send nominations to the Award Committee Chair, Tom DiPrete, Columbia University, email: The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2009 .

The David L. Stevenson Award
This annual award is presented to the best paper by a graduate student on a topic in education. The author (or first author) must be a graduate student at the time of submission, and all authors must have been graduate students when the paper was written. The paper may be unpublished, under review or published but all papers submitted for this award must have been written in the past two years. Nominations from members of the section and self-nominations are welcome; nominees are not required to be section members. Please send an electronic copy of the paper to the Award Committee Chair, Brian Powell, Indiana University, email: The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2009.

After a hiatus of several years, we are reviving the SOE newletter. Fabian Pfeffer, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has graciously offered to edit the Spring and Summer newsletters, and we need your help! Do you have news you want to share with section members? Would you like to write a short article or think piece for the newsletter? Please contact Fabian at Together we can make the newsletter the source of great information and ideas. Thanks Fabian!


The Changing Face of Medicine: Women Doctors and the Evolution of Health Care in America by Ann K. Boulis and Jerry A. Jacobs. 2008. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Facing Human Capital Challenges of the 21 st Century: Education and Labor Market Initiatives in Lebanon , Oman , Qatar ,

and the United Arab Emirates by Gabriella Gonzalez, Lynn A. Karoly, Louay Constant, Hanine Salem, and Charles A. Goldman. 2008. Santa Monica : RAND Corporation.

Fabian Pfeffer wins David Lee Stevenson Graduate Student Paper Award
Paul von Hippel and Megan Andrew receive Honorable Mentions

Since 1994, the Sociology of Education Section of the American Sociological Association has been giving a graduate student paper award for an outstanding paper written by a graduate student or students on a topic in education. In 2000, this award was named the David Lee Stevenson Graduate Student Paper Award in honor of Dr. David Lee Stevenson who passed away in 1999. David Lee Stevenson was an important figure in the sociology of education who combined both scholarship and policy-making. Dr. Stevenson attended graduate school at Yale coming from undergraduate work at Johns Hopkins University . He then held a post-doctoral fellowship in Medical Sociology and Social Psychiatry at the University of Chicago and an Assistant Professorship at Oberlin College . During this time his interests shifted from medical sociology to the sociology of education, and he became focused on policy concerns. In 1988, Dr. Stevenson started an educational policy job, as a Senior Associate in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), at the U.S. Department of Education. He worked on the ever-important National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988-94 and he encouraged other federally-funded research centers to undertake longitudinal research that would produce knowledge and understanding of the processes involved in educational attainment that would inform policy-makers.

Dr. Stevenson then worked on the National Goals Project and developed the National Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners . Within a year, he became the Deputy Executive Director of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, where he wrote the report, Raising Standards for American Education: A Report for the National Council on Education Standards and Testing . Dr. Stevenson left the National Council in 1993 and became Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of Education. Here he focused on bringing more resources to poor and underserved populations, and strengthening standards for student performance and teacher quality. In 1996, He became a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago, where he began the book, The Ambitious Generation: America's Teenagers Motivated but Directionless , a longitudinal study of how teenagers form ideas about college and work, with Professor Barbara Schneider. He also worked at the While House Office of Science and Technology Policy where he worked on developing an interagency research agenda on children and adolescents. Dr. Stevenson died in 1999.

For this award named in his honor, the author (or first author) must be a graduate student at the time of submission, and all authors must have been graduate students when the paper was written. This year award committee members Kim Goyette of Temple University, Sara Goldrick-Rab of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Robert Ream of University of California-Riverside had a fantastic pool of papers to consider, as is indicated by the fact that in addition to a winning paper, they recognized two outstanding papers as worthy of honorable mention.

The first honorable mention was awarded to a paper written by Paul von Hippel, a graduate student at Ohio State University, titled "What Happens to Summer Learning in Year-Round Schools?" This paper assesses whether redistributing the 180 days of the school year over the summer (taking several shorter breaks rather than one long summer break) improves student learning and decreases the learning gap between students whose parents are wealthier and more educated versus those with less advantage. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class 1998-99 (ECLS-K), von Hippel uses multilevel growth models that control for student's age and the days elapsed between tests and the beginning and end of the school year to compare learning rates across traditional, nine-month versus year-round schools. He finds that children in year-round schools learn more quickly in the summer than do those in traditional schools with summer breaks, but that those in traditional schools learn more quickly during the typical school-year. On balance, there are no learning gains to year-round schools, and very little decrease in the gap between more and less advantaged children in traditional school.

Megan Andrew, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also received an honorable mention for her paper titled "Retained and Re-Tracked? Evidence of the Effects and Mechanisms of Primary Grade Retention on Educational Attainment." This paper examines the effects of grade retention in primary school on post-secondary educational transitions. Andrew uses propensity score matching and logistic regression models with NELS 1988-2000 data to explore this question. She finds that retention in primary school does affect post-secondary enrollment and attainment of a bachelor's degree, and this effect largely works through students' academic achievement and educational expectations. This paper suggests that retention is similar to tracking in that students experience less challenging learning environments and depressed expectations as a result of being retained. Andrew's work, like von Hippel's, is methodologically sophisticated and relevant to policy. Seeing the deleterious effects of tracking on student outcomes, most schools have dismantled their formal tracking systems. Policy-makers worried about student outcomes may also reconsider the practice of retaining students in order to improve their academic achievement.

The winner of the 2008 David Lee Stevenson Graduate Student Paper Award was Fabian Pfeffer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His paper, "Persistent Inequality in Educational Attainment and Its Institutional Context: Intergenerational Mobility in Comparative Perspective" examines educational inequality across twenty industrialized nations over about 50 years using log-linear and log-multiplicative models. He also looks for the institutional structures that lead to greater or lesser mobility across countries. Using the International Adult Literacy Survey, he finds that educational inequality has remained relatively stable during the past 50 years, consistent with other research on educational inequality internationally. He finds that variation in inequality across the twenty nations he studies can be partially accounted for by the structure of stratification of a country's education system. Countries with rigid stratification systems with early entrance examines and predetermined paths through secondary school have the most inequality while those with more flexible and multiple paths through secondary and higher education have the least inequality. This, he suggests, is because parents' knowledge about education - their social capital - is most important to students when there is less flexibility in education systems. Parents who are themselves better educated are better able to guide their children at these early transitions in rigidly stratified education systems. This appears to be the most important determinant of educational inequality - degree of standardization, prevalence of private schools, and the openness of the postsecondary system do not have much influence on educational inequality across countries. Consistent with these conclusions, Pfeffer finds that Finland, Northern Ireland, and New Zealand have the most educational mobility. The nations with the least educational mobility are Belgium, Germany, and Slovenia.

Claudia Buchmann and Tom DiPrete win Willard Waller Award for Best Article

The Willard Waller Award committee consisted of Barbara Heyns of New York University, Joseph Soares of Wake Forest University and Scott Thomas of theUniversity of Georgia . Claudia Buchmann, Associate Professor at the Ohio State University, and Tom DiPrete, Professor at Columbia University, received the Willard Waller Award for Best Article in the field for their paper titled "The Growing Female Advantage in College Completion: The Role of Parental Resources and Academic Achievement " published in the American Sociological Review in August 2006. Buchmann and DiPrete study was the first study to examine comprehensively the causes of this trend and to hone in on how this trend varies by social background. Their paper exemplifies the unique strengths of the sociology of education - careful and elegant empirical work that brings sociological theory to bear on issues of critical public

Congratulations to the authors of these fine papers and thank you to both committees for their hard work.