Bali, Valentina A., & Alvarez, Michael
The Race Gap in Student Achievement Scores: Longitudinal Evidence from a Racially Diverse School District
Michigan State University
Examine when and how the Black-White and Hispanic-White test score gaps develop in the early elementary grades in a California school district.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
The Policy Studies Journal
Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 393-415
- In this racially diverse school district achievement gaps do develop, for both Black and Hispanic students. However, in comparison to the Black-White achievement gaps, the Hispanic-White gaps develop later, in particular in math, and they are half the size of the Black-White achievement gaps.
- Both Hispanic and Black students experience an increase in the gap in the second grade; however, Hispanic students' gap narrows again in subsequent grades, but this does not occur for Black students.
- After controlling for student and school attributes, the onset of the gaps for Hispanic and Black students differ, with Hispanics' developing after first grade, in particular in math.
- The evolution of the race gaps varies by race and by subject.
- By fourth grade both Hispanic and Black students are scoring below White students, with Hispanic students' gaps being close to half of Black students' gaps in reading and in math.
- The later onset of the achievement gaps for Hispanics, after the first grade and more sharply in math, suggests that school factors, and the interaction of language and school factors, may play a stronger role in the development of the Hispanic-White gap. In contrast, the earlier onset of the Black-White gap may suggest a stronger role for families and preschools.
- The study concludes that there is little evidence supporting school quality explanations for the growing gaps in the PUSD.
- The widening of the gaps therefore does not seem to be by-product of standardized testing.
- Family structure dramatically drops in importance across grades for Hispanic students, whereas SES increases in importance. Overall, these results suggest that as children age family factors may play a diminishing role for White and Hispanic students but a continually strong role for Black students. Neighborhood effects may play a stronger role for Hispanic students as they age.
- Found plenty of evidence that family and schools have a changing role in time, as one might expect, but more importantly, by race as well.. Parental and environmental contributions may still disadvantage minority students in comparison to White students as they age. However, we have also found some school attributes that differentially benefit minority students.
- Findings provide evidence that Hispanic and Black students experience different evolutions in their achievement gaps.
- In the PSUD, we find that Hispanic students experience a later onset of their math achievement gaps, more specifically after the first grade, than Black students. The potential causes for the onset of the Hispanic-White gaps, as opposed to their evolution, may lie more heavily on school, neighborhood and language factors.
- Results imply that policy interventions that attempt to bridge the achievement gaps for Hispanic and Black students, of which there are many, may have to address the fact that slightly different factors may influencing them. For Hispanics, it may be the case that difficulties related to language or cultural differences play a strong role in particular in the very early grades. Both for Black and Hispanic students, it may be that parental and more generally environmental effects play a stronger role as students age, in comparison to White students.
- Achievement gaps for Hispanic and Black students also develop in racially diverse environments. But, it is possible that the diversity of the student body in this district plays a role in diminishing the racial gap in student achievement scores.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Academic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Hispanics, Latinos, Math, Minorities, Reading
Method of Analysis:
Pasadena Unified School District
Unit of Analysis:
- Unique database containing reading and math test scores and a wealth of background and school environment information of each student attending the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) from 1999 through 2002.
- A distinct feature of the PSUD is its diverse racial composition, 29% Black students and 52% Hispanic students, thus providing an excellent opportunity to examine the dynamics of the racial gaps when minorities are a majority group.
- Data consists of students who were in fourth grade in 2002, who had been in the PUSD since 1999, and who had test scores for all four years. This cohort consists of 1,147 students for reading scores and 1,221 students for math scores, and they attended the 22 elementary schools within the PUSD.
- DV: NCE reading test scores, math
- IV: Individual/family variables (special education, English learner, English spoken at home, both parents head of household, mother head of household, father head of household, enrolled in free lunch program, SES low, SES mid), school variables (5 teacher full teaching credentials, number of computers per student, average class size in a school, % Hispanics in school, % blacks in schools, % teachers minority in school).
- Goal is to examine the dynamics of the racial gaps between first grade though fourth grade after controlling for student background and school attributes.