Federal Report Roundup

ETS Tracks Causes of Scoring Gaps

By Debra Viadero — May 07, 2009 1 min read

The United States has made little progress over the past six years in reducing the disparities, both within and outside of schools, that keep poor and minority students from achieving the same kind of academic success as their white and better-off peers, a report from the Educational Testing Service says.

The April 30 report, a follow-up to a 2003 study by the Princeton, N.J.-based testing giant, tracks national progress in reducing gaps between students of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups on 16 factors that have been linked to student achievement. It notes, for instance, that:

• While students of all racial or ethnic groups are taking more rigorous courses in high school, black students are still underrepresented among those taking Advanced Placement exams.

• In percentages of 8th graders taught by uncertified teachers, the gap has increased between Hispanic students, whose teachers are far more likely to lack certification, and white students.

• At all grade levels, teachers in high-minority schools are more likely to have larger class sizes than teachers in low-minority schools. That gap has widened since 2003.

• Among 8th graders in 2007, 52 percent of black students had a teacher who left before the school year’s end, compared with 44 percent of Hispanic students and 28 percent of white students—roughly the same proportions as in previous years.

• Poor and minority children continue to be more likely than other children to be exposed to environmental hazards, such as lead and mercury.

• More than half of black 8th graders, compared with a fifth of white students, watch an average of four or more hours of television each weekday—a gap that has not changed since 2000.

“What I find troubling is that this issue is still on the table,” said Edmund W. Gordon, a professor emeritus of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, who commented on the report. “While some progress has been made, it’s not nearly enough.”

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A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2009 edition of Education Week

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