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Achievement Gaps
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What are the Achievement Gaps?

  1. Achievement Gap in Race

    1. Black Students

Prior Education Predicts Racial Differences in College Enrollment and Graduation

A government study finds that blacks are more likely to attend college and just as likely to graduate as whites with similar levels of educational achievement. However, a gap in postsecondary schooling still persists for blacks as a group.

Citation:
This reports some of the ideas and findings from the following source:

National Center for Education Statistics (2001).Educational achievement and black-white inequality.U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved August 28, 2002 fromhttp://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2001061. Pp. 23-30

To see other reports that originated from this same citation, go to the bibliography.

The black-white gap in college attendance and completion has persisted since the mid-1970s despite the fact that black young adults now graduate from high school at nearly the same rate as whites. A report by the National Center for Educational Statistics uses four sets of data to determine whether the black-white gap in educational attainment is the result of differences in educational achievement and related factors.

The Racial Gap in High School Completion

The report finds that the black-white difference in high school completion rates (including GED certificates) fell from 8.5 percentage points in the 1986-1992 sample to 2.3 percentage points in the 1992 sample. For young adults with similar levels of educational achievement, there was no significant racial gap in the 1986-1992 sample and blacks graduated high school at a rate 1.6 percentage points higher than whites in the 1992 sample.

The Racial Gap in College Attendance

Young blacks attended college at a rate 4-10 percentage points lower than young whites in the four samples studied (see Figure 1). The report says that the gap widened 7 percentage points from the 1986-1992 sample to the 1992 sample.

Figure 1. Black-White Gap in College Attendance

For blacks with educational achievement levels similar to whites, however, blacks were more likely than whites to attend college (see Figure 1). This difference ranged from 6 to 17 percentage points and was even higher if parental socioeconomic status and census region were taken into account.

The Racial Gap in College Completion

The report finds that blacks completed college at a rate 13-19 percentage points lower than whites (see Figure 2). This gap was similar for men and women.

Figure 2. Black-White Gap in College Completion

However, blacks with educational achievement levels similar to whites were just as likely or more likely to graduate from college (see Figure 2). The 1979 sample showed a significant 8.3 percentage point gap in college completion rates, while the gap in the other three samples was statistically insignificant. Holding parental socioeconomic status and census region constant as well produced similar results.

The Bottom Line

These results "provide strong evidence that differences in educational achievement . . . are a powerful predictor of black-white disparities in postsecondary educational attainment," the report indicates (p. 29). Young blacks who have test scores similar to whites are more likely to attend college and just as likely to finish.

The report shows that prior educational achievement may affect postsecondary attainment directly or may simply be correlated with some unobserved factor that causes the racial gap in college attendance and completion to disappear. However, "it is likely that achievement differences are both a cause and an indicator of attainment differences," the report concludes (p. 29).

Research Design:

The authors of this report include Cara Olsen, Jennifer King Rice, and Stephen Sweetland of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and John Ralph of the National Center for Education Statistics.

The analyses of educational and labor market outcomes used four sets of data (with standard errors adjusted for complex survey designs and multiple imputation used to account for missing data), including the:

  • National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics). This sample looked at high school seniors seven years later.
  • National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1983-1989 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). This sample looked at high school students who were seniors between 1976 and 1982 seven years later.
  • National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1986-1992 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics). This sample looked at students who were high school sophomores between 1974 and 1980 twelve years later.
  • High School and Beyond, 1992. This sample looked at students who were high school sophomores in 1980 twelve years later.

The analyses of educational achievement outcomes (with math and reading achievement test scores converted to 8th-grade standard deviation units) focused on four samples of children, including:

  • Cohort 1 of the Chapter 1 Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 1 and 2 from 1992 to 1993.
  • Cohort 3 of the Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 3 and 5 from 1991 to 1993.
  • Cohort 7 of the Prospects Study, which observed children between grades 7 and 9 from 1991 to 1993.
  • National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1998, which observed children between grades 10 and 12 from 1990 to 1992.

Statistical analysis was performed for each set of data to compare (mean) differences between blacks and whites, to compare differences holding educational achievement constant, and to compare differences holding multiple characteristics (educational achievement, work experience, parental socioeconomic status, and Census region) constant. Tests of significance were conducted at the p = .05 level.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations.

 



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