What are the Achievement Gaps?
How does the difference between black and white student test scores relate to college admission, college grades, and later wages? Two researchers review the research.
This reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:
Jencks, C., & Phillips, M. (1998). The black-white test score gap: An introduction. In C. Jencks and M. Phillips (Eds.),The black-white test score gap(pp. 1-51). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.
To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.
Scholars Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips say that they acknowledge that there is a difference between test scores for black and white students in primary and secondary education. But, they ask, how does this difference relate to students' college academic performance and wages later in life?
Specifically, they look at three questions:
Because black students tend not to perform academically as well as white students, if colleges only admitted students in the top of their high school class, they would have a very small proportion of black students. Jencks and Phillips say that since the late 1960s, selective colleges began using race as a factor when considering admission. According to one study, in 1982 selective colleges were as likely to admit a black student with a B+ average and an SAT score of 1100 as they were to admit a white student with an A- average and an SAT score of 1300.
In the mid-1990s, things changed. A number of states began to exclude race as a factor to consider for admissions. Proponents of "color blind" admissions argue that giving weight to race is unfair to whites and Asian-Americans. They also suggest that minority students given preference at selective colleges would probably perform better at less-selective colleges. Jencks and Phillips do not believe that there is evidence to support this, however.
Jencks and Phillips also look at studies of how black students perform during college. Specifically, they look at two questions:
Jencks and Phillips say that the relationship between test scores and race—as it relates to wages—differs dramatically for women and men.
Jencks and Phillips speculate on possible reasons for these differences:
Jencks and Phillips offer these as possible explanations, but they do not provide any evidence to explain racial differences in wages in relation to test scores.
Research Design: Authors Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips review theories and research on the black-white test score gap. They also comment on effects of the gap and what might be done to narrow the gap.
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