The following collection of data breaks down 4th and 8th grade math scores by state, comparing the performance of poor students to non-poor students. Minnesota's results are highlighted.
Quotes on Education Achievement Gap
"Ability grouping rarely benefits overall achievement, but it can contribute to inequality of achievement, as students in high groups gain and low-group students fall farther behind. The more rigid the tracking system, the more likely these patterns are to emerge."
"Based on high standards for all students, high-quality professional development for teachers, safe and disciplined learning environments, and accountability to parents and taxpayers, the Educational Excellence for All Children Act of 1999 provides a solid foundation for raising student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers. More important, it will help prepare all of our children, and thus the Nation, for the challenges of the 21st century. I urge the Congress to take prompt and favorable action on this proposal."
"The first step to closing that gap is to believe, as I do, that high expectations are for all students. I believe intelligence is equally distributed throughout the world, but opportunity is not. And the same is true within our own country."
"We know that the achievement levels can be raised. The question is whether we have the will to do what we know works. If we're going to set high expectations of students, we must have high expectations of ourselves to do what it takes to make sure all of our students can make the grade.
We know that we can make college more accessible. That's what the HOPE scholarships do, the Direct Student Loan Program, the lifetime learning tax credit. But I think we ought to do more. I have got a proposal before Congress to give up to $10,000 of tuition tax-deductible status every year and to do it at a 28 percent income tax rate, even for people in the 15 percent income tax bracket, which is a very, very important proposal. And it could make it possible for even more of our young people to go to college and for more of our families to afford it.
So today, we know what we have to do, and we know we can do it. And what I think is always helpful is to translate what we wish to do into specific goals. So I think we ought to adopt five specific goals to close the Hispanic student achievement gap over the next 10 years."
"Would getting rid of tracking help? It's doubtful. The best research has found that tracking has no significant effect on achievement. As James A. Kulik of the University of Michigan has demonstrated, the best results come when curriculum is tailored to different levels, targeting the academic deficiencies of low-performing students and allowing high performers to accelerate to a level at which they're challenged."
"For those who are interested in schools that produce academic success for minority students, there is no lack of examples, past and present. Tragically, there is a lack of interest by the public school establishment in such examples. Again, I think this goes back to the politics of education.
Put bluntly, failure attracts more money than success. Politically, failure becomes a reason to demand more money, smaller classes, and more trendy courses and programs, ranging from 'black English' to bilingualism and 'self-esteem.' Politicians who want to look compassionate and concerned know that voting money for such projects accomplishes that purpose for them and voting against such programs risks charges of mean-spiritedness, if not implications of racism."
"On the basis of our analysis of achievement levels reached by children who participated in Title I programs, we conclude that the program has not produced systematic, significant improvements in achievement. That is, children who received services funded by Title I did not generally perform significantly better in achievement tests than children who did not."
"[L]et aspiring teachers skip the schools of education that some say actively promote mediocrity and incompetence. Allow multiple routes into the profession, and reward excellent teachers with higher pay and more responsibility. Pay more to lure those with rare skills, such as good math and science teachers. And pay more to outstanding teachers willing to work in schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged students."
"Almost all excellent schools teaching highly disadvantaged kids look very much alike - and quite different from most regular public schools. ...
In addition to an academically superb program, they demand that their students learn how to speak standard English. They also insist that kids show up on time, properly dressed; that they sit up straight at their desks, chairs pulled in, workbooks organized; that they never waste a minute in which they could be learning and always finish their homework; that they look at people to whom they are talking, listen to teachers with respect, treat classmates with equal civility, and shake hands with visitors to the school. ...
But such schools cannot be created within the normal structure of public education. It is no accident that those I came to admire were all charter schools; their principals needed the authority and autonomy to shape a distinctive education. And such schools cannot function unless teachers and families have chosen to be there - with the understanding that they will be asked to leave if they choose to reject the discipline and dedication that the principals demand."
"But more importantly than the process of putting reform in place is that we're beginning to see results. If you measure, you get to determine whether or not we're achieving things. Fourth grade math test scores across this Nation went up nine points between the years 2000 and 2003. Eighth graders improved by five points in the same period. In other words, because we measure, I can now stand up and say we're beginning to close an achievement gap in America. We've got reading scores— reading scores for fourth graders increased in the vast majority of States that tested between 1998 and 2003, including Virginia. African American and Hispanic and Native American children are beginning to learn to read. There is a significant achievement gap in America, and that is not right. And we're closing that gap. And you know how we know, is because we measure, because we're willing to devise measurement systems, not at the Federal level but at the State level."
"The role of the Federal Government is to serve as a funding source for specific projects and an instigator for accountability systems. The accountability system is, of course, devised by local people. The State of Virginia has devised its own accountability system. I don't believe in a Federal test. I believe a Federal test leads to Federal control, and I believe Federal control of the public school systems leads to failure. And so I believe the Federal Government has an obligation to help in a way that helps local districts and local schools achieve our objectives.
Some of that money ought to be—that I've just announced will go to early intervention programs. Under this plan, high school teachers will analyze eighth grade test data for incoming ninth grade students so that when they see a student at risk of falling behind, the teachers and the parents can get together and design a program to help make sure that child can catch up, before it's too late."
"We're making progress, but there's more work to be done. Today, American schools are no longer separate, but they're not yet equal. Too many of our children still face what I have called the soft bigotry of low expectations. With the No Child Left Behind Act, we've raised expectations. We believe every child can learn, and we expect every school to teach. And we measure. And guess what's happening? Test scores are going up. There's an achievement gap for minority children that is closing in America."
"The differences in measured skills between blacks and whites are enormous. By age 17, the average black student is performing at around the 20th percentile of the white distribution. This performance feeds directly into further schooling and into the labor market, continuing the cycle of inequality."
”How important are these social pressures? Although that story has yet to be fully told, in my view, the prevalence of acting white in schools with racially mixed student bodies suggests that social pressures could go a long way toward explaining the large racial and ethnic gaps in SAT scores, the underperformance of minorities in suburban schools, and the lack of adequate representation of blacks and Hispanics in elite colleges and universities."
"[…] the effect of acting white on popularity appears to be twice as large in the more-integrated (racially mixed) schools as in the less-integrated ones."
"Grouping by ability is most prevalent in schools having about half their populations composed of white students. The proportion becomes relatively low both when whites dominate and when they make up a low percentage of students. This observation is consistent with those that claim tracking is de facto racial segregation."
"Reading problems, in turn, are at the core of the black-white achievement gap. Reading is the motor of all education—the basic skill that leads to all other academic skills. Disadvantaged kids who can’t read adequately by fourth grade aren’t as likely to understand math problems, science and social studies texts, computer manuals, or much else. They’re almost doomed to falling further and further behind in their later school years. At that point, remediation is probably too late."
"Unfortunately the evidence consistently shows that judicial involvement in school spending has yielded no improvements in student outcomes. Judges appear to have no special wisdom or advantage over their elected colleagues in legislatures or on school boards in identifying the circumstances and manner in which additional spending would produce better education."
"For decades, we have poured money into schooling while seeing few obvious benefits. Current per-pupil spending in constant dollars more than tripled between 1961-62 and 2003-04, from $2,603 to $8,886. Pupil-to-teacher ratios plunged, from 25.1 students per teacher in 1965 to 15.3 per teacher in 2007. Meanwhile, educational progress has been disappointing, at best, over the past quarter-century. This is the epitome of pushing on a string. In an economy marked by new technologies, labor-saving devices, steady growth in productivity, and an evolving labor pool, we are hiring and deploying educators just the way we did a half-century ago. The result is that new investments have not delivered the hoped-for results.
Ultimately, no one should be surprised that arrangements which have haphazardly taken shape over two centuries are ill-equipped to address the challenges or fully exploit the opportunities of the 21st century."
"But if 'the poor shall always be with us,' so too will low test scores and other aspects of disadvantaged students’ inadequate achievement. It is unreasonable and irresponsible to expect schools and teachers to overcome social class differences while exempting every other institution and public official from taking action to do so."
"The wide variation in performance among schools serving similar students suggests that these gaps can be closed. Race and poverty are not destiny."
"[…] the relatively low performance of Latino students, who in less than a generation will comprise roughly three in ten American children, is an urgent issue. The nation’s economic and social well-being will be compromised without efforts at all levels of government to develop policies to increase achievement for Latino young people."
"Many of the factors that seem to have a bearing on high achievement for Asian students relate to home environments and social structures outside of school. For example, many Asian American parents set high expectations for their children’s education, as evidenced by such activities as monitoring their children’s school performance, obtaining information about school curriculum and college requirements, encouraging participation in out of school learning activities, and holding their children responsible for their own learning. This may reflect the fact that many Asian immigrant parents were often very motivated to come to the U.S. and made sacrifices to provide their children with better educational and economic opportunities. Perhaps mirroring the values of their parents, many Asian American students are themselves strongly motivated and put considerable effort into schoolwork. Asian Americans spend a greater than average time on school assignments and engage in helpful study habits, such as forming study groups."
"It is remarkable that these schools have been able to maintain their uncompromising meritocracy. In the 1970s, New York’s quintessentially liberal mayor, John Lindsay, tried to get their admissions policy changed by claiming that the entrance test was 'culturally biased.' (All the schools, Hunter excepted, use the same eighth-grade exam.) But parents at the schools pushed back and successfully petitioned the state legislature to preserve the test as the sole basis for admission by writing it into New York’s education law. Periodically since then, advocacy groups (including Acorn) have made similar charges that the admissions tests are biased and should be scrapped.
The specialized high schools, though, have repaid the city, state, and nation time and again by turning out thousands of extraordinarily talented graduates, some of whom have gone on to make great contributions in science, engineering, medicine, and the law."
"Such sentiments are admirable, and helping the lowest-achieving students do better is of course a worthy and important aim. But the effort to close gaps has hardly been an unmitigated blessing. In their glib self-confidence, the champions of that effort have refused to confront its costs and unintended consequences, and have been far too quick to silence skeptics by branding them blind defenders of the status quo (if not calling them outright racists).
The truth is that achievement-gap mania has led to education policy that has shortchanged many children. It has narrowed the scope of schooling. It has hollowed out public support for school reform. It has stifled educational innovation. It has distorted the way we approach educational choice, accountability, and reform.
And its animating principles — including its moral philosophy — are, at best, highly questionable. Indeed, the relentless focus on gap-closing has transformed school reform into little more than a less objectionable rehash of the failed Great Society playbook."
"There can be unfortunate, if often unacknowledged, consequences when we seek to universalize excellence. Such efforts can dilute instructional quality, make it tougher for teachers to go as deep or as fast as they otherwise might, and distract attention from advanced students. Given these mixed results, how did the gap-closing gospel become the organizing principle of American schooling?"
"[I]n a terrible irony, achievement-gap mania has indirectly made it more difficult for reformers to promote integrated schools. Philanthropic foundations that support education causes are interested in serving as many poor and minority children as possible; when 30% to 40% of a student body is made up of white or affluent students, the school is deemed suspect, as reform-minded foundations see such programs as 'wasting' a third of their seats. Bragging rights go to charter schools or programs that have the highest-octane mix of poor and minority kids. The upshot is that it is terribly difficult to generate interest in nurturing racially or socioeconomically integrated schools, even though just about every observer thinks that more such schools would be good for kids, communities, and the country."
"And I want to say that the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable, and President Bush deserves credit for that. Higher standards are the right goal. Accountability is the right goal. Closing the achievement gap is the right goal. And we've got to stay focused on those goals. But experience has taught us that in its implementation No Child Left Behind had some serious flaws that are hurting our children instead of helping them. Teachers too often are being forced to teach to the test. Subjects like history and science have been squeezed out. And in order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some States, perversely, have actually had to lower their standards in a race to the bottom instead of a race to the top. They don't want to get penalized? Let's make sure that the standards are so low that we're not going to be seen failing to meet them. That makes no sense."
"Today, lots of folks—including school board members, superintendents and state official—insist we can't narrow the achievement gap without boatloads of new money. Some say that if poor, minority children are to learn, they must be bused far from home to sit next to kids whose skin color or income bracket is different. Few talk much about teaching kids the vital importance of hard work, self-discipline, rejecting victimhood and taking responsibility for their own success."
"How does indoctrination like this help children who struggle to master phonics and the multiplication tables? How does the notion that black children are 'emotional' and prone to 'rolling of the eyes,' while white children are 'intellectual' and good at 'quantitative thinking,' support minority children in ways that will reduce the learning gap?
The tragedy is that schools that embrace such ideological nonsense are harming the very students who most need our help."