This paper uses student-level third international mathematics and science study (timss) data to analyze the determinants of schooling quality for seven eastern european transition countries by estimating educational production functions. The results show substantial effects of student background on educational performance and a much lower impact of resources and the institutional setting. Two different groups of countries emerge. For the first group that features high mean test scores and has progressed far in transition, large effects of family background on student performance and a higher spread of test scores illustrate the similarity to western european schooling systems, the performance of which it surpasses. Schools of the second group produce instead a denser distribution of educational achievement, characteristic of communist societies.