New Heritage Brief on the Racial Achievement Gap


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Back in 1997, Professor Lawrence Stedman wrote:

Twelfth-grade black students are performing at the level of middle school white students. These students are about to graduate, yet they lag four or more years behind in every area including math, science, writing, history, and geography. Latino seniors do somewhat better than 8th-grade white students in math and writing but, in other areas, are also four years behind white 12th graders…. Schools and society remains divided into two different worlds, one black, one white, separate and unequal.

Thirteen years later, sadly not much has changed with the national numbers, but some states have proven that far-reaching policy changes can reduce achievement gaps.

Lindsey Burke and I sing a new duet celebrating Florida’s reduction of the racial achievement gap  in a new Heritage brief.  Let’s just say the evidence from Florida is fairly compelling:

From the brief:

If trends since 1998 were to hold nationally, it would be about 33 years before we could expect Hispanics to close the gap with their white peers. In Florida, however, black students could catch up in half that time, and Hispanics could exceed the national average for white students as early as 2011.

This is just the sort of progress that the “Broader-Bolder” crowd would like us to believe is not possible without a vast expansion of the welfare state.

OOOOOOOOPS! Do you think we’re stupid Hans? It is accountability with teeth, real transparency and expanded parental choice that is making this happen. Cue the slo-mo fall scene-and please try not to make too big of a mess on the sidewalk.


2 Responses to New Heritage Brief on the Racial Achievement Gap

  1. Pete says:

    The gap between those who hurdled an artificial bar may be decreasing but that does not prove that the overall gap is improving or by how much. By how far are students crossing that bar? And don’t forget Campbell’s law – it is possible that the numbers game is being achieved but at what cost? Were all efforts on the “bubble” kids to the detriment of the advanced kids? Many questions are left open and so while this chart is impressive and positive it is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

  2. matthewladner says:


    Since Florida institued their reforms, not only have the percentage of students scoring Basic or Better improved (as shown in the chart) the percentage of kids scoring at the higher levels- Proficient and Advanced- have also gone up substantially. For example, the percentage of kids scoring at the Advanced level on 4th grade reading doubled from 4 percent to 8 percent between 1998 and 2009.

    Campbell’s law is also not much of a factor here because these are NAEP data, not state FCAT data. No one’s school ranking or job performance is based upon NAEP data. You can’t teach to the test, and even if you could you have no incentive to do so because what gets reported are a statewide number.

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