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ACHIEVEMENT GAP

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The abstracts used in this resource were taken from the websites of organizations supplying the referenced documents.

Bainbridge, W., & Lashley, T. (2002). Demographics, diversity, and K-12 accountability: The challenge of closing the achievement gap. Education and Urban Society, 34(4), 422-437.
The achievement gap persists within American classrooms. Although teachers do make a difference in terms of what and how much students achieve, educational practitioners and policymakers would be well served to consider social inequities created by demographic realities, instructional practices that engender broad student participation, and accountability measures that compare districts fairly.
(pdf, 92kb)


Barton, P., & Coley, R. (2008). Windows on achievement and inequality. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, Policy Evaluation and Research Center.
As required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), educators are continuously monitoring whether more or fewer students are scoring at a level termed Proficient. But what about changes in the distribution of scores? Barton and Coley examine what is happening to both top-performing and lower-performing students and how the distribution of scores is changing in the United States. The authors also seek to demystify reported scores by providing examples of the kinds of knowledge and skills that students are likely to be able to demonstrate at particular score levels. They describe the many windows of achievement that parents, educators, policymakers, researchers, and the media should be looking through, in order to understand how our students are performing, and what aspects of education warrant further attention.
(pdf, 2.2mb)


Cannon, J. S., & Karoly, L. A. (2007). The promise of preschool for narrowing readiness and achievement gaps among California children. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
California has fallen behind on many key indicators of education performance, prompting policymakers to look for strategies to improve student outcomes. Among the policy options being considered is the possibility of expanding public funding for preschool education as part of a broader agenda of education reform. To provide a foundation for evaluating the potential of such an expansion and how best to implement it, the RAND Corporation is undertaking the California Preschool Study. This research brief summarizes the findings of the first part of the study, which is on school achievement and the potential of preschool to make a difference.
(pdf, 157kb)


Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H. & Vigdor, J. (2006). The academic achievement gap in grades 3 to 8. Durham, NC: Duke University.
Using data for North Carolina public school students in grades 3 to 8, we examine achievement gaps between white students and students from other racial and ethnic groups. Our results on achievement gaps between black and white students are consistent with those from other longitudinal studies: the gaps are sizable, are robust to control for measures of socioeconomic status, and show no monotonic trend between 3rd and 8th grade. In contrast, both Hispanic and Asian students tend to gain on whites as they progress through these grades. Racial gaps differ widely across geographic areas within the state; very few of the districts or groups of districts that we examined have managed simultaneously to close the black-white gap and raise the relative test scores of black students.
(pdf, 298kb)


Ferguson, R. (2000). Cultivating new routines that foster high achievement for all students. Boston, MA: Harvard University, Wiener Center for Social Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Describes reasons for minority achievement gap; suggests ways for school and community members to adopt routines to alleviate the gap; discusses use of transition clusters to achieve transitions to new routines; reviews research on conditions that promote engagement; and suggests topics and methods for additional relevant research. (Abstract from ERIC)
(pdf, 132kb)


Hanushek, E. & Rivkin, S. (2006). School quality and the black-white achievement gap. (Working Paper 12651). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.
Substantial uncertainty exists about the impact of school quality on the black-white achievement gap. Our results, based on both Texas Schools Project administrative data and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, differ noticeably from other recent analyses of the black-white achievement gap by providing strong evidence that schools have a substantial effect on the differential. The majority of the expansion of the achievement gap with age occurs between rather than within schools, and specific school and peer factors exert a significant effect on the growth in the achievement gap.
(pdf, 301kb)


Hemphill, F. C., & Vanneman, A. (2011). Achievement gaps: How Hispanic and White students in public schools perform in mathematics and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NCES 2011-459). Washington, DC: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics.
This report provides detailed information on the size of the achievement gaps between Hispanic and White public school students at the national and state levels and describes how those achievement gaps have changed over time.
(pdf, 7.9mb)


Klein, L., & Knitzer, J. (2007). Promoting effective early learning: What every policymaker and educator should know. New York, NY: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, National Center for Children in Poverty.
This brief provides a blueprint for state and local policymakers, early learning administrators, teachers, families, community leaders, and researchers [that allows them] to use effective preschool curricula and teaching strategies to help low-income young children close the achievement gap in early literacy and math to be ready for kindergarten like their more affluent peers. It is part of a series of publications from the Pathways to Early School Success project of NCCP. The brief and the more in-depth report -- Effective Preschool Curricula and Teaching Strategies -- are both based on a meeting that NCCP convened bringing together distinguished researchers, as well as a careful review of recently funded research.
(pdf, 767kb)


Leiberman, G., & Hoody, L. (1998). Closing the achievement gap: Using the environment as an integrating context for learning. San Diego, CA: State Education and Environment Roundtable.
This report, prepared by the State Education and Environment Roundtable, is the story of the schools, teachers and students who are involved in implementing EIC. It presents the results of a nationwide study; describes the major concepts and assumptions underlying the EIC; explores a range of successful EIC programs across the United States; identifies the major characteristics of successful EIC programs; and analyzes the implications of EIC-based education for student learning and instruction.
(pdf, 893kb)


Reardon, S. (2011). The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Center for Education Policy Analysis.
This book chapter examines whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. It seeks to determine whether the achievement gap between children in high and low income families has widened as the income gap between these families has grown. The author concludes that the answer is yes and discusses key trends along with other significant findings.
(pdf, 316kb)


Reardon, S. F., & Robinson, J. P. (2008). Patterns and trends in racial/ethnic and socioeconomic academic achievement gaps. In Helen F. Ladd and Edward B. Fiske (eds.) Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy.
Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement remain a stubborn fact of schooling in the United States. Considerable attention has been focused on achievement gaps, particularly the black-white achievement gap. Scholars and educators have suggested a number of possible explanations for these gaps, and policy makers, principals, and teachers have tried a range of remedies. As this chapter documents, however, the gaps persist despite these efforts. Moreover, our understanding of the causes and patterns of these achievement gaps is far from complete.
(pdf, 1.1mb)


Rothman, R. (2001). Closing the achievement gap: How schools are making it happen. The Journal of the Annenberg Challenge, 5(2), 1-12.
This document describes the efforts and successes of some school districts as they work to reduce the socio-economic and racial achievement gaps between students.


Williams, B. (2003). Closing the achievement gap: A vision for changing beliefs and practices. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Chapters in this book, based on the efforts of the Urban Education National Network Task Force, define the nature of obstacles to the academic performance of urban students and identify, validate, and disseminate a knowledge base of theory and practice to inform decision making about urban schools.


Act, Inc., (2010). Mind the gaps: How college readiness narrows achievement gaps in college success. Iowa City, Iowa: Author.
This report discusses factors that contribute to lower college success rates among underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students and students from lower-income families. The report also shows that racial/ethnic and family income gaps in college success rates narrow substantially among students who are ready for college. Policymakers and educators have the power to help these students substantially narrow the achievement gaps that currently prevent students from taking full advantage of the college experience. With this goal in mind, the results of this research suggest the following recommendations: (1) Close the gap between student aspirations and high school course plans by ensuring that all students take at least a core curriculum in high school; (2) Close the gap in the alignment of high school courses with college and career readiness standards by focusing high school core courses on the essential standards for college and career readiness; and (3) Close the gap in the quality of high school courses across schools by offering all students rigorous high school core courses that cover the essential knowledge and skills needed for college and career readiness in sufficient depth and intensity.
(pdf, 618kb)


Blank, R. (2011). Closing the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students?: Analyzing change since No Child Left Behind using state assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.
A critical state-level indicator of progress in public education is student achievement annual performance and change over time. The present report uses two different measures of student achievement--state student assessments and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)--to determine the degree to which achievement gaps have been reduced in the period of implementation of NCLB in states. Three key questions are addressed by this analysis: (1) Has student achievement on state-administered annual assessments in math and language arts improved significantly since NCLB implementation and particularly for students from economically disadvantaged families?; (2) Has the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students closed since NCLB implementation?; and (3) Are state trends in student achievement on state assessments confirmed by achievement trends on the NAEP math and reading assessments? Currently, education indicators are centered around measures of education outcomes and particularly student achievement on standardized assessments. With increasing use of integrated data systems by states and districts, student achievement growth can be tracked for multiple years and many states are now using growth models for school accountability. The analyses of achievement trends presented in this paper use achievement scores aggregated at the state level to analyze grade cohort change over time for specific target student groups.
(pdf, 750kb)


Braun, H., Chapman, L., & Vezzu, S. (2010). The black-white achievement gap revisited. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 18(21). 1-99.
This study examines trends in Black student achievement and in the Black-White achievement gap over the period 2000 to 2007, employing data from ten states drawn from the NAEP Grade 8 mathematics assessments. In addition, information on the ten states' education policies for the period 1998 to 2005 was compiled. States' relative ranks on the overall strength of their reform efforts were compared to their relative ranks with respect to their success in improving Black student achievement and in reducing the Black- White achievement gap. Although the ten states certainly differed in their outcomes, the general picture at all three levels of aggregation is quite clear: The achievement gaps are substantial and the introduction of federally mandated high stakes test-based accountability through No Child Left Behind has had a very modest impact on the rates of improvement for Black students and on the pace of reductions in the achievement gaps between Black students and White students. Moreover, there was only a weak association between states' policy rankings and their rankings related to test results. It appears there is a need for both fresh thinking on education reform and a more concerted effort to collect comprehensive longitudinal information on states' education policies
(pdf, 2330kb)


Chudowsky, N., Chudowsky, V., & Kober, N. (2009). Are achievement gaps closing and is achievement rising for all? Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy.
A main goal of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is to close gaps in test scores between different groups of students while raising achievement for all groups. Of particular concern are the persistent achievement gaps between African American, Latino, and Native American students and their white and Asian counterparts, and between students from low-income families and those who are not low-income. For these gaps to narrow and eventually close, not only must achievement for lower-scoring subgroups increase, but it must go up at a faster rate than for the higher-scoring comparison group. A related question is whether achievement for all subgroups has improved across the scoring scale--at the advanced and basic levels as well as at the proficient level, which receives the most scrutiny under NCLB. In 2009, the third year of a multi-year study of student achievement, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) did three types of analyses of data broken out by subgroups from the state tests used for NCLB accountability. This report describes the trends found for African American, Latino, Native American, Asian, and white students, and for low-income and non-low-income students. Achievement trends for students with disabilities, English language learners, and male and female students will be discussed in future reports in this series.
(pdf, 276kb)


Ferguson, R., Hackman, S., Hackman, R., & Ballantine, A. (2010). How high schools become exemplary: Ways that leadership raises achievement and narrows gaps by improving instruction in 15 public high schools. Report on the 2009 Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Retrieved from http://www.agi.harvard.edu
This report features 15 outstanding public high schools from Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and Washington, DC, who reported on the turnaround of their schools at the Fifth Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University in June of 2009. Key insights from the conference centered around the impact on student outcomes when leadership teams at these schools focused relentlessly on improving student outcomes. The stories of these schools' continuing journey convey critically important principles, processes, and practices that can help high schools across the nation raise achievement and close gaps.
(pdf, 3867kb)


Ferguson, R., Hackman, S., Hanna, R., & Ballantine, A. (2008). Raising achievement and closing gaps in whole school systems: Recent advances in research and practice. Report on the 2008 Annual Conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Retrieved from http://www.agi.harvard.edu
Conference proceedings of the fourth annual conference of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University. Presenters at the conference described their work and distilled their best insights for educational practitioners at the district level, and other key stakeholders. A central theme explored at the conference was the key importance of knowledgeable and inspired leadership in schools and districts, focused persistently on improved classroom instruction, as the essential factor in improving achievement and closing gaps.
(pdf, 1696kb)


Halvorsen, A., Duke, N., Brugar, K., Block, M., Strachan, S., Berka, M., & Brown, J. (2012). Narrowing the achievement gap in second-grade social studies and content area literacy: The promise of a project-based approach. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University, Education Policy Center
This design experiment addresses the question: How can second-grade students from low-SES schools attain the same levels of achievement as students from high-SES schools on standards-based social studies and content area literacy assessments? Students from two high-SES school districts were assessed in order to establish target levels of achievement. Two project-based units focused on state standards in economics; civics and government; public discourse, decision making, and citizen involvement; and content area literacy were developed and implemented successively in four classrooms in low-SES school districts. Achievement of students in the low-SES districts was then compared to that of students in high-SES districts. Results show no statistically significant differences: following instruction, there was no SES achievement gap on these standards-based assessments. We describe the unit plans and strategies that the teachers used to implement these plans, and we discuss implications of the study for future research and practice
(pdf, 1059kb)


Kober, N., McMurrer, J., & Silva, M. (2011). State test score trends through 2008-09, Part 4: Is achievement improving and are gaps narrowing for Title I students? Washington DC: Center on Education Policy.
To learn more about how well Title I students are performing academically, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) compared achievement trends since 2002 (or a more recent year in some states) on state reading and mathematics tests for Title I students and for students not participating in Title I. In particular, the authors looked at whether Title I students have made gains in reading and math at grades 4, 8, and the high school grade tested for NCLB (usually grade 10 or 11). They also examined whether achievement gaps between Title I and non-Title I students have narrowed. They used two indicators of achievement on each state's test--average (mean) scores on the scoring scale for that test, and the percentages of students scoring at or above the proficient level. Study results indicate that achievement has improved for title I students in most states, and overall, achievement gaps have narrowed. The resource offers detailed findings.
(pdf, 421kb)


Madrid, M. (2011). The Latino achievement gap. Multicultural Education. 19(3), 7-12.
In the very near future, Latino students will become the majority in California's public schools and because of their great numbers and presence, the pattern of lackluster academic achievement must be a major concern of teachers, school leaders, and policy makers. Despite having made great strides in narrowing the gap that separated them from their White classmates during the 1960s and 1970s, the academic progress of Latino students declined in the mid-1980s. Although there has been some improvement in the achievement of Latinos during the past three decades, their achievement gains in relation to the achievement of White students has been insignificant. The poor academic achievement of Latino students is indicative of a complex, multifaceted problem that must be addressed because as the Latino student population continues to grow, their poor achievement especially in mathematics and reading has significant implications not only for California's public educational system, but also for the state's and nation's social, political, and economic future. For Latino students to succeed academically, the author suggests that substantial and significant changes in the educational system must be in the offing, especially what is taught, how it is taught, the manner in which Latino students are perceived by teachers and administrators, and the condition of the schools in which Latino students are enrolled.
(pdf, 243kb)


Montoya, S. (2010). Exploring family, neighborhood and school factors in racial achievement gap. Santa Monica, CA: RAND. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/rgs_dissertations/RGSD259.html
The three papers of this dissertation examine the contribution of family, school, and neighborhood factors to the racial achievement gap in education. The first paper shows that the fraction percentage of college-educated adults and the median household income in the neighborhood are positively associated with students' achievement, but neighborhood factors can account, on average, for about 5 percent of student achievement. The second paper analyzes the effect of enrolling students in Algebra 1 in 8th grade instead of 9th grade. The findings suggest that the Algebra 1 for everyone policy encouraged since the early 1990s is not equally effective for all students. Students whose test scores were low prior to 8th grade did not improve at the same rate or did not improve at all. The third paper explores factors underlying the achievement gap between white and Hispanic students. The author finds that (1) within-school factors exceed between-school factors; (2) parental education is the most important individual variable: white students have on average better educated parents, which translates to higher test scores; and (3) the achievement gap narrows between grades 3 and 10, with the improvement mainly associated with a reduction in within-school disparities.
(pdf, 6.5mb)


Nichols, S. L., Glass, G. V., & Berliner, D.C. (2012) High-stakes testing and student achievement: Updated analyses with NAEP data. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 20(20) Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1048
The present research is a follow-up study of earlier published analyses that looked at the relationship between high-stakes testing pressure and student achievement in 25 states. Using the previously derived Accountability Pressure Index (APR) as a measure of state-level policy pressure for performance on standardized tests, a series of correlation analyses was conducted to explore relationships between high-stakes testing accountability pressure and student achievement as measured by the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) in reading and math. Consistent with earlier work, stronger positive correlations between the pressure index and NAEP performance in fourth grade math and weaker connections between pressure and fourth and eighth grade reading performance were found. Policy implications and future directions for research are discussed.
(pdf, 445kb)


Prager, K. (2011). Positioning young black boys for educational success. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Across America, the problem of Black male achievement seems intractable. This nation fails its Black sons more than any other racial or ethnic group. This is the second in a series of conferences that the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has organized to look specifically at the Black male achievement gap. The first, Climbing the Academic Achievement Ladder: Promoting the Success of Black Males, also covered in this issue of ETS Policy Notes, took place at ETS headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, on November 13, 2010.. This issue of ETS Policy Notes will weave together highlights from both conferences, examining the status of Black males in America as well as the important roles that families, schools, communities and public policy can play in improving this status. The focus begins with the earliest achievement gap noted at 9 months of age, and continues with innovative programs that may alter the achievement trajectory for these children. Finally, it describes an important initiative on which CDF (Children's Defense Fund) and ETS are collaborating that expands successful practice with ETS's support of a CDF Freedom School[R] in Newark, New Jersey.
(pdf, 589kb)


Zimmer, R., & Buddin, R. (2005). Charter school performance in urban districts: Are they closing the achievement gap? Santa Monica, CA: Rand. Retrieved from http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR282.html.
In the national effort to improve educational achievement, urban districts offer the greatest challenge as they often serve the most disadvantaged students. Many urban leaders, including mayors and school district superintendents, have initiated charter schools, which are publicly supported, autonomously operated schools of choice, as a mechanism of improving learning for these disadvantaged students. In this analysis, the authors examine the effect charter schools are having on student achievement generally, and on different demographic groups, in two major urban districts in California. The results show that achievement scores in charters are keeping pace, but not exceeding those in traditional public schools. The findings also show that the charter effect does not vary systematically with the race/ethnicity or English proficiency status of students.
(pdf, 1.1mb)


Addiitonal Resources
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has supported a series of publications that provide educators with insights into strategies and policies aimed at closing the achievement gap. The documents offer stories, results, and lessons learned over the seven years of the project. All the publications can be downloaded at this website: http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/PublicationsSeries/ClosingAchievementGap.aspx


For additional information and bibliographies, see The Achievement Gap in North Carolina.