Achievement Gaps: How Black and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress

Alan Vanneman, Linda Hamilton, Janet B. Anderson, and Taslima Rahman
National Center for Education Statistics
July 2009

This report feeds the education community's enduring obsession with
the achievement gap by re-slicing 2004 and 2007 NAEP data to look at
black-white disparities on both national and state levels. It repackages
some of the 2007 race and ethnicity subgroup data for fourth and eighth
graders and supplements it with similar data from the long-term NAEP
2004 trend (LTT) assessment. (Remember, the main NAEP test and NAEP LTT
data are not the same; we explain why here.)
The good news is that math scores for both black and white students in
both grades are higher than on any previous LTT assessment (going back
to 1978) and on any previous main NAEP assessment (going back to 1990).
Reading saw similar progress for both groups in both grades, too, though
the LTT data start a bit later (1980). The unsurprising news is that
white students, on average, tend to have much higher scores than black
students on all assessments. So, while gaps narrowed significantly in
both grades on math and in fourth grade reading, white students
nonetheless had average scores that were at least 26 points higher (on a
0-500 point scale) than black students in each subject. (Wisconsin,
Nebraska, and D.C. posted some of the biggest gaps in both subjects,
while Delaware and New Jersey narrowed them in reading and Arkansas and
Texas narrowed them in math.) Though there are many ways for gaps to narrow--including, for example, the higher achieving group declining--the
narrowing of these four gaps (fourth grade math and reading and eighth
grade math and reading) were the result of gains for black students. A
report on the white-Hispanic achievement gap is to be released next
year. Find the report, including state-level results, here.

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