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Published in Print: October 7, 1998, as Narrowing the Gap

Narrowing the Gap

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Here are some of the findings from The Black-White Test Score Gap.

  • The achievement gap narrowed in the 1970s and 1980s because gains in blacks' scores outpaced those of whites', according to an analysis of data from the National assessment of Educational Progress.
Christopher Jencks
  • Since 1988, the gulf has widened as the performance of whites on NAEP's reading and mathematics exams rose, while blacks' scores have slipped in reading and leveled off in math.
  • For African-Americans, test scores improved the most among students who entered school from 1968 through 1972 and from 1976 through 1980.
  • While most research focuses on average scores, blacks lag far behind whites in reaching the upper ranges of most test results. Depending on the exam, whites are 10 to 20 times more likely to score at the highest levels.
  • Black kindergartners have "substantially weaker math, reading, and vocabulary skills" than their white peers. About half the gap between black 12th graders and their white peers might be closed by "eliminating the differences that exist before children enter 1st grade."
  • The other half of that gap could be closed by addressing other factors such as African-American students' self-esteem and study habits.
  • Teachers underestimate the intelligence of their black students, contributing to the test-score gap.

Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 12

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