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THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP
Race and Ethnicity in Education
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THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Large collections of statistics drawn from American Society clearly demonstrate the performance variation between minorities and the white majority. While many educational researchers are looking to close the achievement gap, it is important to note how wide this gap actually is. Looking at this data shows us how much work we must accomplish to ensure American students are properly and equally educated.

           

How big is it?

 MATH

Math classes are part of the core education that students today receive. Mathematics is an important part of every student’s educational track as well as their daily lives. Thus, it is quite alarming to researches that most upper level math classes are comprised primarily of white students and that the lower level mathetiatics classes reveal a large minority representation.

            Standardized tests are at the center of American educational controversy today. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), passed in 2002 is a driving force behind the large consideration of standardized test scores. From this data, the achievement gap between the majority and minorities has become more apparent, as well as more distressing to schools. The NCLB mandates that schools without significant standardized test score increases receive harsh penalties such as curriculum changes, restructuring and even government takeover.

            Look at the following chart to see the differences between African American test scores and White students on various Standardized tests:

 

Standardized Test

White Students Average Scores

African American Students Average Scores

National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics test (12th grade)

307

273


SAT Math scores from 1996-2003

529

425

 

These scores demonstrate the large discrepancy between White Students and African American students on two important tests. Vincent Snipes and Roderick Waters proposed a few examples of why these African American students were underperforming. They maintained that the “tracking” of African American children into lower level mathematics classes is of great importance. This system puts the students at an immediate deficit, as they do not experience the high-level mathematics courses with the rest of their classmates. Snipes and Waters also discus the lack of exposure to better teachers. The best teachers often do not teach the lower-level courses that these students are placed in. Technology’s role in the mathematics gap discusses the lack of tools in classrooms such as calculators and computers. Finally, the disconnections of classroom mathematics to outside the school environment are of great importance in the studies of Snipes and Waters. Classroom managers fail to create a mathematics curriculum that African Americans can relate to.

            While NCLB is working to close the achievement gap, it is clear from this data how much work they must do.

 

READING

Early reading skills are critical for future success. If children do not acquire these skills by the 5th grade, it is hard for them to catch up in the middle school and high school environment. Beyond these early years the curriculum becomes more rigid and in-depth and concentrates less on the basic skills.

            The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reports that the nation’s minority student, ages 9-13 and 17, read at a significantly lower level than corresponding white students. The cart below shows the reading proficiency by Race/Ethnicity and Grade as taken from the 1984 NAEP results.

 

Grade

White

Hispanic

Black

4

224.7

200.8

195.0

8

266.6

243.0

240.4

11

295.8

269.4

266.6

 

            Note from this data that the Average Reading assessment score of 8th Grade Whites is the same as that of 11th grade Blacks. These results are unacceptable and really show the disparity between both groups.

            Vilma Ortiz examined many variables that could contribute to this large difference in scores. These included tings such as parents’ education, reading and related activities, and reading for enjoyment. She discovered that among both the black and Hispanic students, fewer parents had a college education, and a number did not graduate high school. Also, White students reported having more reading materials in the home, more family reading time, and less television viewing. These variables can all contribute to students’ abilities to read at a higher level.

            Reading is another serious issue, like mathematics, that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, it is important that the stress on reading be in students’ younger years. 

 

ARE WE WORKING TOWARDS CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP?

            In the last five years, the minority achievement on the NAEP has increased 13 points. Also, college entrance rates for white students and Hispanic students have increased 5% over the last decade, and 12% for black students. While this demonstrates a large success towards closing the gap, there is still much more work to be done. Luckily this issue is in the limelight in America’s educational community.

            The increased use of technology has produced successful results towards narrowing this gap. For instance, West Virginia implemented a large-scale program teaching Basic Skills/Computer Education, and found great results. While their per capita income stayed the same in the 7 years of this programs run, the new technology single handedly increased their states achievement level from 33rd to 11th. Another program called eMINTS (enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies) also showed significant results in improving scores. This program provided classes with tools such as a teacher laptop and computer workstation and a SMART Board interactive whiteboard and projector (T.H.E. Journal, 13-4).

            While states work towards closing this gap, they must acknowledge the difficulty of this task. With help from the NCLB’s pressures as well as a newfound educational awareness in society it is hopeful that student’s scores will begin to improve across the board.