Study: Most School Districts Have Achievement Gaps

NAEP statistical analysis from Stanford study.

Study: Most School Districts Have Achievement Gaps

That five-year period enabled researchers to focus on districts completing a decade of state and federal accountability initiatives designed to close academic gaps between white students and their black and Hispanic peers. Of the 2,500 school districts with a large enough sample of black students to measure their achievement gaps, Reardon and his colleagues found only one with no black-white gap: Detroit.

“Detroit is not the poster child for reducing the achievement gap,” Reardon said in an interview with Education Week. “The achievement gap is zero in Detroit largely because everyone’s doing really poorly, not because black students are doing particularly well.”

Several of the other districts with the lowest achievement gaps have similar profiles of high poverty and multiple attempts at education overhauls, suggesting their low achievement gaps come from lower performance overall.

Moreover, the researchers found some of the biggest black-white achievement gaps in the country—where black students lag their white peers by more than 1.5 full standard deviations, or four to five grade levels on the NAEP scale—in relatively prosperous university towns, including Berkeley, Calif. (home of University of California, Berkeley), and Evanston, Ill. (home of Northwestern University).