Get to Know the Achievement Gap

The achievement gap is defined as the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Measures include standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates and college enrollment and completion rates.

Research into the causes of gaps in student achievement between low-income minority students and middle-income white students has been ongoing since the publication of the report, “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (more widely known as the Coleman Report), commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education in 1966. That research suggests that both in-school factors and home/community factors impact the academic achievement of students and contribute to the gap.

Minnesota’s achievement gap among the demographic groups described above is one of the largest in the nation– Minneapolis’ achievement gap is the largest in the state.

The National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) scores, released November 1, 2011, show that little progress is being made in closing Minnesota’s gap. Additional data can be found at http://nces.ed.gov/

  • 4th Grade Math – students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch had an average score that was 23 points lower than students who were not eligible. This performance gap is three points wider than it was in 1996 (20 points).
  • 8th Grade Math – students who were eligible for free/reduced-price lunch had an average score that was 27 points lower than students who were not eligible. This performance gap is nine points wider than it was in 1996 (18 points).
  • 4th Grade Reading – students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school lunch had an average score that was 28 points lower than students who were not eligible. This performance gap is not significantly different from 1998 (30 points).
  • 8th Grade Reading – students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch had an average score that was 21points lower than student who were not eligible. This performance gap is not significantly different from 1998 (23 points). 
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