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New Ed Trust Report Details Achievement Gap


African-Americans and Hispanics have a four-year college graduation rate of 21 percent, according to a new report released Wednesday by The Education Trust. By comparison, the four-year college graduation rate for Asians is 41 percent and 38 percent for Whites.

According to The Education Watch State Summary Reports, poorly funded public schools continue to produce students — many of whom are minority and low-income — without the skills needed to participate in the knowledge economy.

“While manufacturing and agriculture once gave America an edge, education will determine who leads the 21st century,” says Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust. “America is facing unprecedented pressure to compete in a global economy, and we simply cannot afford to under-educate so many of our young people.”

While college attainment levels differed from state to state, attainment levels for specific demographic groups raised questions of equity, according to the report.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tables accompanying the reports compare which states do a better job at teaching minority students. Some of the largest achievement gaps between African-American and White students were in the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia had a 250-point gap in fourth-grade reading levels between Blacks and Whites; and a more than 310-point gap in eighth-grade math.

The gap in math achievement separating Hispanic from White eighth-graders in Minnesota is 10 points larger than the gap in Virginia, a state educating a similar proportion of Latino students.

“If race and poverty mattered more than what happens in schools, then NAEP scores for low-income students and students of color would be more consistent from state to state,” says Daria Hall, senior policy analyst for the Education Trust.

For a high-poverty school district, there is a funding gap of $1.3 million for a high school with 1,500 students, and states like New York, Illinois and Wyoming have some of the largest. The report also says the single biggest predictor of college success is completion of a rigorous high school curriculum but minority students are less likely to complete these courses. But poor teacher quality in under-funded schools also contributes to the achievement gap.

Haycock says there needs to be a focus on the unfinished business of combining both excellence and equity.

“We owe it to the young people who are relying on public education to give them a path out of poverty, and we owe it to our country,” says Haycock. “Achievement gaps are not inevitable, but we can’t close them without profoundly rethinking and reshaping our public schools.”

-Shilpa Banerji

Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 2 reader comments on this story:

“a more honest story”
While I haven’t read the original Ed Trust report (they promised to vet such things with me first, but in this case, obviously haven’t), it’s not clear from your story who is being counted.  All high school graduates, whether or not they ever entered college?  All postsecondary entrants, even if the only school they attended was a cosmetology school?  All adults over the age of 18–no matter how hold they are?  I work with the national longitudinal studies, and while all of them show degree completion gaps by race/ethnicity, the whole range of degree completion is much higher than your article presents it.

     If I took all traditional age students who attended a 4-year college at any time (that includes folks who started in community colleges) and gave them 8.5 years to finish a bachelor’s degree anywhere, 45% of Latinos, 52% of African-Americans, 65% of Asian-Americans, and 68% of white students finished the degree. And the evidence comes from their transcript records, which don’t lie. Are these gaps significant?  Yes!  Can we do better? Yes!  And is this a more honest story than what you reported?  Yes!–and yes, again!

-Clifford Adelman,
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Washington, DC

“an alarming statistic”
This is an alarming statistic not only for clearly, African American and Hispanic students, but for the nation. Did anyone else notice that none of the student groups listed are graduating at a 50% rate or higher after 4 years?

-Terry Clay,
Arnold, MD

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