NCES Report Shows School Demographics Correlate with Achievement Gap


According to a report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), grade 8 math scores of Black and White students are, on average, lower in public schools with a higher percentage of Black students than in schools with a higher number of White students.

The report, “School Composition and the Black-White Achievement Gap,” looked into the Black-White achievement gap by examining NAEP results from the 2011 grade 8 Mathematics assessment.  The relationship between the percentage of Black students in school populations, student achievement, and the Black-White achievement gap was explored using two sets of analyses.

According to the findings, on average, White typically students attended schools that were 9% Black, while Black students typically attended schools that were 48% Black.  Among schools with a higher percentage of Black students, achievement was found to be lower for both Black and White students.  Most of these schools were found to be within Southern states, with fewer in the Midwest.  The lowest number of these schools were in the Western United States.

Most schools that held the highest portion of Black students (60-100%) were found to be located in cities, with a smaller portion in suburbs, towns and rural areas.

The report also found that schools with higher densities of Black students were also found to have higher proportions of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

The report noted that the student achievement of white students in schools with the highest proportion of Black students was the same as it was in schools with the lowest density.  However, among Black students, achievement was still found to be lowest in schools with the highest density of Black students.

In terms of gender, findings suggest that the achievement gap between Black and White students was highest in the schools with a large number of Black students for males, but not for female students.

The report also looked into how much of the gap could be attributed to between-school differences in comparison to those found within schools.  Within most states and on a national level, differences within schools were found to attribute more to the achievement gap than those found between schools.  However, a separate portion of the gap could not be attributed to either of these influences alone and was labeled as “indeterminate.”

“We know there are growing concerns over the resegregation of the nation’s public schools, and this research sheds new light on the achievement gap and our understanding of the impact of school composition on student achievement,” said Acting NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr. “Even when we account for factors associated with higher achievement such as student socioeconomic status (SES) and other student, teacher, and school characteristics, we see that Black male student achievement is lower in schools with higher percentages of Black students.”

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