Peijia Zha

Urban Education


Work Position
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Rutgers University

Date passed dissertation defense
May 2011


Peijia Zha is a research associate at the Newark Schools Research Collaborative (NSRC). Her research interests include closing the achievement gap in urban settings, performance-based accountability, and impacts of policy on school improvement. She has published in these areas in scholarly journals and a book chapter. Dr. Zha’s current research focuses on improving educational equity progress in order to close the achievement gaps among different racial and social groups of students in urban schools.

Title of the Dissertation

A Structural Analysis of Neighborhood and School Effects on Immigrant Children's Academic Performance

Dissertation Abstract

Immigrant children are influenced by a variety of contexts, including their family, peer groups, neighborhood, and institutions such as school and the workplace. To gauge how immigrant children fare in education, it is extremely important to understand whether, and how, these contexts affect their academic performance. This dissertation’s theoretical framework is heavily grounded in theories dealing with the impact of neighborhood and school on children’s academic performance. Analyzing nationally representative data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), this study investigates whether, and how, two of these contexts—neighborhood and school characteristics—influence non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, and Asian immigrant students’ academic performance. Comparison analysis, hierarchical linear modeling, and fixed-effect modeling are used to test six hypotheses. The comparison analysis found that, generally speaking, neighborhood and school conditions are better for non-immigrant than for immigrant students. Specifically, neighborhood and school conditions are better for Asian immigrants than for Hispanic immigrants, and significantly better for immigrant non-Hispanic Whites than for immigrant non-Hispanic Blacks. Multilevel regression analysis found that both neighborhood and school characteristics affect immigrant students’ GPA, while neighborhood-school involvement characteristics do not (neither do they affect non-immigrant students’ GPA). Neighborhood SES and neighborhood immigrant composition affect immigrant students’ GPA. Furthermore, the results show that school socioeconomic status (SES), school climate, and school location affect immigrant students’ GPA. Large class size and school type are associated with non-immigrant students’ GPA. The results of the study imply that both neighborhood and school characteristics influence academic performance of immigrant students more than that of non-immigrant students. Compared to the neighborhood, the school, as an institutional resource, plays a crucial role in immigrant students’ academic performance and their assimilation processes.



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