Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) — “The data released today is disappointing – especially for students of color and their parents – but hardly surprising,” said Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, of today’s release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress trend data for the nation.

“In some subject areas and at some grade levels we see modest progress in narrowing the achievement gap that separates minority students from White students. But the progress is too slow and the gaps remain painfully wide. For example, the Black-White reading gap for 17-year-olds is the area in which greatest progress has been made, and yet Black 17-year-olds are still about two grade-levels behind their White peers in reading skills.

“Moreover, virtually all of the progress was made during the 70’s and 80’s. You might call the 90’s the ‘dead in the water’ decade as far as gap closing is concerned. For example, the gaps in math skills between Blacks and Whites and Latinos and Whites narrowed modestly at nearly every grade level between 1973 and 1999, yet virtually none of that progress was made from 1990-99, and most came between 1973 and 1990.

“But again, no one should be terribly surprised by the persistence of these gaps. Over the last decade too few states, school districts and schools have done the work that it takes to close the gap. And the federal government has turned a blind eye to the gap and to the students who most need its help by failing to require gap closing as a federal funds.”

Haycock went on to point out that minority students are substantially more likely to be taught by teachers without college majors in their subject areas than are White students. And minority students are also far less likely to be enrolled in the college preparatory curriculum than are Whites.

“Their teachers are less qualified and their coursework is less rigorous, put these factors together and of course you get lower test scores,” she said.

“This summer, both parties — in their platforms — made bold and laudable commitments to closing the achievement gap, but so far neither of the presidential candidates has articulated an agenda that will in fact close the gap.

“If we are to close the student achievement gap-we must first and foremost close the teacher talent gap. As it stands now, minority students are taught by more than their fair share of unqualified and inexperienced teachers. This simply has to stop.

“Secondly, states, school districts and schools must all be held accountable-not just by the federal government, but by all of us-for closing achievement gap. We can’t continue to say ‘everything is fine’ when millions of black and brown children are being left behind.”

***Please note that later this year, The Education Trust will release a detailed state by state analysis of overall student achievement and the achievement gap for the 1990’s.***