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Achievement Gaps
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What are the Achievement Gaps?

  1. Achievement Gap in Race

Long-Term Trends in U.S. Student Science Scores: A Racial Comparison

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tracks U.S. student knowledge in various subject areas. Their 1999 report presents the trends in U.S. student science knowledge over the past 30 years.

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

National Assessment of Educational Progress (1999).Long term trend assessment.U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved March 29, 2002 from

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

How do U.S. students of different races compare in terms of their achievement in science? One way of answering this question is to look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trends.

The NAEP began assessing U.S. students' science knowledge in the early 1970s. Since that time they have periodically tested students to track how their science knowledge has changed over time. By drawing on samples of U.S. students at ages 9, 13, and 17, the NAEP is able to compare the performance of different subgroups of U.S. students, for instance, according to gender and race.

Comparing Students of Different Races in Terms of Science Knowledge

Over the past thirty years the NAEP has tracked the science knowledge of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-old students. The Figures 1-3 present black, Hispanic, and white students' performance on the NAEP assessment over this time period.

Figure 1. NAEP Science Score Trends by Race of 9-Year-Old U.S. Students

While black and Hispanic students's science scores remained similar, the science scores of white students were consistently higher.

Figure 2. NAEP Science Score Trends by Race of 13-Year-Old U.S. Students

As with 9-year-olds, white students' science scores are consistently higher across the entire period for 13-year-olds. Both black and Hispanic 13-year-olds made some progress into the early 1990s.

Figure 3. NAEP Science Score Trends by Race of 17-Year-Old U.S. Students

Figure 3 shows a pattern of science scores similar to the patterns for 9- and 13-year-olds.

Mapping the Achievement Gap

By comparing the scores of black and Hispanic students with white students, we can see how the science achievement gap has changed over the past30 years.

Figure 4. Gap in NAEP Science Scores for White and Black U.S. Students

Figure 4 shows that the black-white science achievement gap drops until the late 1980s. After that point, the gap either flattens out or increases.

Figure 5. Gap in NAEP Science Scores for White and Hispanic U.S. Students

There is no clear trend in the Hispanic-white science achievement gap.


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