Few US Urban Schools Reducing Achievement Gaps, Report Says

(Photo: Creative Commons)

(Photo: Creative Commons)

A new report from Education Cities and Great Schools finds that while most cities in the United States still hold large achievement gaps between rich and poor students, some cities are working harder than others to ensure low-income students receive a quality education.

Titled "Education Equality in America," the report is a first-of-its-kind comparison of achievement gaps present within 42 states and major cities throughout the country. According to the findings, only two out of every ten low-income students from big cities attend schools where they perform either close to or on the same level as their more affluent peers. Over 60 of the largest cities in the country have "massive" achievement gaps that have either grown or stagnated in the past few years.

On a state level, the achievement gap was found to be massive in three out of four states for which data is available. In addition, the statewide achievement gap was found to have slightly narrowed between 2011 and 2014 in most states. Three of the 10 cities with the smallest achievement gaps are located in Arizona, while California, Texas, and Florida, three of the largest states, have some of the smallest achievement gaps in the country.

Most major US cities were found to have achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers that stagnated or grew between 2011 and 2014. In addition, almost every major city was found to be home to a large or massive achievement gap. Of the 100 major US cities looked at for the study, eight had small achievement gaps, 25 had large achievement gaps, and 67 had massive achievement gaps. The report also discovered that two of the three major US cities with the smallest achievement gap, Hialeah and Miami, are both part of the Miami-Dade County Public School district.

In terms of individual schools, only two in ten students from low-income families were found to attend schools that were successful in closing the achievement gap. Most major US cities have fewer than 10 schools that primarily serve low-income students and have a small or nonexistent achievement gap. Schools that have massive achievement gaps one year were found to be more likely to continue to have a massive achievement gap the next year.

Half of the schools on the list of 100 largest US cities that have a nonexistent or small achievement gap were reported to be elementary schools. Just 6% of low-income students in the 100 biggest cities attend a school that does not report an achievement gap.

"People are working tirelessly in communities across the country to improve educational opportunity, particularly for underserved kids. But far too often these efforts can be siloed, fragmented, making people feel like they have to reinvent the wheel," Samantha Brown Olivieri, the vice president for data strategy at GreatSchools, said on a call with reporters. This "gives us the opportunity at a national level to provide a simple tool to start conversations about the achievement gap."

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