- Wilkinson, Ian A. G. 1998. “Dealing with Diversity: Achievement Gaps in Reading Literacy among New Zealand Students.” Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 144-167. Newark / Hoboken, United States: International Literacy Association and Wiley.
Among all countries that participated in the latest IEA survey of reading literacy, New Zealand showed the second largest difference in achievement between girls and boys in primary school and the largest difference in achievement between those students learning in their home language and those who were not. This study sought to identify school and classroom factors that moderated the gender and home language gaps in the reading achievement of New Zealand students. Using data from the IEA survey, comprehension and word recognition scores and other information relating to 3,027 9-year-old students from a sample of 176 primary schools were analyzed by means of the hierarchical linear model. Findings showed that the magnitudes of the gender gap for comprehension and of the home language gaps for comprehension and word recognition varied across schools. In large measure, factors that moderated the gaps were those that reflected teachers’ capacities to handle diversity. Well-educated teachers, who showed commitment to their work and set up rich literacy environments for their students–and these tended to be mostly female teachers–and who frequently assessed students’ progress in order to address their needs were helping close the gender or home language gaps. However, evidence suggests that many teachers were struggling to cope with increased diversity among students under conditions that made it difficult for them to be responsive to individual needs. Additional school and classroom factors that might minimize reading difficulties experienced by boys at an early age and students from non-English-speaking backgrounds are discussed.