Research desk responds: How does the achievement gap vary by state?
By Dylan Matthews
What states experience the highest racial achievement gap and how is has that changed over the course of history?
Thankfully, the Department of Education keeps great, great data (PDF) on this very subject, with individual graphs for each states, on both reading and math tests, showing how the achievement gap between black and white students has changed since 1990. Including all of that would make this post interminable, so here is how the reading test gap with fourth-grade students varies across the states; there are also data for eight-graders, but the information includes fewer states (click for a readable version):
Here are the same data, but with math scores:
As the tiny print at the bottom of each graph explains, states with negligible black populations -- Vermont, Utah, Idaho, etc. -- are not counted. D.C. leads both lists, which one might expect given its combination of upper-middle-class whites and poor or working-class black residents, but the states that follow it are less predictable. On math, for example, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois and Connecticut immediately follow, topping southern states where legally enforced school segregation was a more recent phenomenon. Among southern states, the deep South, where one might expect to see the largest gaps, does not stand out, with Alabama and Mississippi doing roughly as well as the Carolinas or Tennessee. Hawaii and West Virginia report the smallest gaps in both surveys. Both have notably small black populations, which provide less opportunity for de facto school segregation.
In any case, the Department of Education report (PDF) on the achievement gap is a really stellar research document, and it's hard to think of a question on state-level achievement gaps to which it does not have an answer. If you want to know more, dig in.
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