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 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
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.
at the following chart to see the differences between African American test
scores and White students on various Standardized tests:
White Students Average Scores
African American Students Average Scores
National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics
test (12th grade)
SAT Math scores from 1996-2003
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.
NCLB is working to close the achievement gap, it is clear from this data how
much work they must do.
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.
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.
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.
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
is another serious issue, like mathematics, that needs to be addressed.
Furthermore, it is important that the stress on reading be in students’ younger
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.
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).
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.