Sunday, May 3, 2009

Report: The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools

Thank you to Julye M. Williams, founder of Global Youth Connect, Inc for bringing this report to my attention. 

A recent report entitled The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America's Schools, examines the dimensions and economic impact of the education achievement gap. While much controversy exists on the causes of the gap and on what the nation should do to address it, the full range of the achievement gap's character and consequences has been poorly understood.

This report examines the dimensions of four distinct gaps in education: (1) between the United States and other nations, (2) between black and Latino students and white students, (3) between students of different income levels, and (4) between similar students schooled in different systems or regions.

The report finds that the underutilization of human potential as reflected in the achievement gap is extremely costly. Existing gaps impose the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession -- one substantially larger than the deep recession the country is currently experiencing. For individuals, avoidable shortfalls in academic achievement impose heavy and often tragic consequences via lower earnings, poor health, and higher rates of incarceration.

Some sobering findings:

A racial achievement gap exists where the average black or Latino student is roughly 2-3 years of

learning behind the average white student

A racial gap exists today regardless of how it is measured, including both achievement (e.g., test score)

and attainment (e.g., graduation rate) measures

Averaging math and reading across fourth and eighth grade, 48% of blacks and 43% of Latino students are

"below basic," while only 17% of whites are; this gap exists in every state

An even larger racial achievement gap exists in urban school districts, with only 3 of 11 districts having a

black-white gap smaller than the national average

Relative to other countries, black and Latino eighth-graders in the United States perform at the level of

transitioning countries in math and science; this trend is amplified as students get older

In eighth-grade math, Latino students performed at the level of Malaysia and blacks perform at the level of

Bosnia and Herzegovina

For 15-year-olds in science, US Latino students are at the level of Chile and Serbia and US black students

score on par with Mexico and Indonesia

This racial achievement gap grows in magnitude as a child nears entry to the workforce from grade 4

to grade 12

Between fourth and twelfth grade, the gap grows 41% for Latino students and 22% for black students

The racial achievement gap is not correlated with overall state performance (i.e., better states do not

have smaller gaps)

Even in states with the highest overall test scores, the racial achievement gap is very large (e.g.,

Massachusetts has among the highest overall NAEP scores, but black and Latino students are 8x more

likely to be “below“ basic in fourth-grade math than whites)

And these regional and state variations in the achievement gap cannot be explained by the proportion of

black and Latino students in the educational system

Download the report (PDF - 772 KB):