Achievement and Opportunity Gaps in Mathematics Education in Turkey Compared to European Union Countries



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One of the main purposes of this dissertation was to examine gender- and socioeconomic status (SES)-related mathematics achievement gaps among Turkish middle-school students compared to achievement gaps in European Union (EU) countries. A further purpose of the present study was to investigate qualified mathematics teachers? distribution in relation to student SES among Turkish middle schools. Finally, relationships between mathematics teacher quality indicators and students? mathematics achievement within Turkish middle-school classrooms were explored.

In this dissertation, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2007 data were used. Sample countries were Turkey, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, and Slovenia. Achievement gaps by gender and SES were examined using Cohen?s d effect sizes and 95 percent confidence intervals. Relationships between mathematics teacher quality and students? mathematics achievement were investigated using hierarchical linear modeling.

Results showed none or only negligible gender differences but substantial SES-related gaps in Turkish students? achievement in mathematics, overall, or in various content and cognitive domains. Correlations between students? SES levels and their achievement were the largest in Turkey compared to the sample EU countries. Among the sample EU countries, only Hungary had as large or even somewhat larger disparities as Turkey between low- and high-SES students? mathematics achievement. The current study also identified SES-related inequities in access to qualified mathematics teachers in Turkey. Low-SES students were more likely to be taught by mathematics teachers who had less than 3 years of experience or who did not hold a degree in mathematics or mathematics education. On the other hand, years of experience and a degree in mathematics or mathematics education were found to be substantially related to Turkish eighth-grade students? mathematics achievement. Low-SES students? mathematics teachers were also more likely to report lack of confidence in their preparation to teach various mathematics contents.

To narrow achievement gaps, Turkish policy-makers can explore and benefit from policies of the countries identified in the present study as more equitable in terms of student achievement than Turkey. The current study also shows Turkish policy-makers importance of the equitable distribution of qualified mathematics teachers in closing the mathematics achievement gap in middle schools.