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Can the Achievement Gaps be Overcome?

  1. How to Close the Achievement Gaps: Research and Policy

    1. Public Policy

When It Comes to Efforts to Address the Achievement Gap, States Are Not Equal

How do different state educational policies designed to address the achievement gap compare? Which are more difficult? Which are less difficult?

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

Lee, J. (1998). State policy correlates of the achievement gap among racial and social groups.Studies in Educational Evaluation, 24,137-152.

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

How did different states compare in terms of their level of activity in implementing standards-raising educational policies during the 1980s? Which states are at the top of the heap, and which states did relatively little in the way of instituting new educational policies?

Educational scholar Jaekyung Lee examines different state educational policies and then compares states across these policies to determine which states had been the most active into the mid-1980s. His research provides an overview of not only the different kinds of policies that have been put into place, but how active different states have been in making standards-raising educational reforms.

Student and Teacher Standards for Raising Achievement

Lee distinguishes between "student-" and "teacher-" focused standards-raising policies. Student-focused policies are those in which the goal is to expose students to more rigorous curriculum and assessments. Teacher-focused policies are those oriented toward exposing students to high-quality teachers.

In each category, Lee identifies several different policies.

Exposing Students to More Rigorous Curriculum and Assessments

Exposing Students to High-Quality Teachers

1. Using test results for:

  • monitoring
  • remediation
  • gatekeeping
  • funds distribution

2. Requiring for high school graduation:

  • course credits
  • an exit test
  • certain level of attendance

1. Entrance into teacher education requires:

  • passing a test
  • a certain GPA
  • other requirements

2. Teacher education curriculum includes:

  • an approved program
  • distribution requirements

3. Completion of teacher education requires:

  • certain level of GPA
  • passing a basic skills test
  • passing a professional skills test
  • passing a subject specialty test

4. Entry-level certification requires:

  • passing a basic skills test
  • passing a professional skills test
  • passing a subject specialty test
  • passing a general knowledge test
  • evaluation of teaching practice
  • an approved program

5. Recertification requires:

  • certain number of years of experience
  • formal education
  • in-service training
  • staff development program

Some Reform Efforts Are More Difficult than Others

Lee notes, however, that not all policies were equally likely to be adopted. He calculates the relative "difficulty" of the policy by calculating the probability that a given state would adopt the policy. Based on this calculation, Lee ranks the policies in the following order from most difficult to least difficult.

Relative Difficulty of Reform Effort

Policies

More Difficult
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Less Difficult

Completion of teacher education requires passing a subject specialty test.

Completion of teacher education requires passing a professional skills test.

Entrance into teacher education requires "other" requirements (not specified in Lee's analysis).

Completion of teacher education requires passing a basic skills test.

Entry-level teacher certification requires passing a general-knowledge test.

Entry-level teacher certification requires evaluation of teaching.

Entry-level teacher certification requires passing a professional skills test.

Two reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Entry-level teacher certification requires passing a basic skills test.
  2. Entrance into teacher education requires a certain level GPA.

Two reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Entry-level teacher certification requires passing a subject specialty test.
  2. Teacher recertification requires a staff development program.

Entrance into teacher education requires passing a test.

Three reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Require passing an exit exam for high school graduation.
  2. Completion of teacher education requires a certain level GPA.
  3. Using tests for student remediation.

Using tests for student gatekeeping.

Two reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Using tests for student monitoring.
  2. Teacher recertification requires in-service training.

Teacher education curriculum has distribution requirements.

Two reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Requiring course credits for high school graduation.
  2. Teacher recertification requires formal education.

Teacher recertification requires certain number of years of teaching experience.

Three reforms at this level of difficulty:

  1. Attendance requirements for high school graduation.
  2. Teacher education requires an approved program.
  3. Entry-level teacher certification requires an approved program.

Some States Are More Active in Reform than Others

Lee also calculated how "active" states were in terms of instituting standards-raising policies according to 19841985 state policy survey data. Based on their probability of instituting policies, Lee ranks all 50 US states in the following order.

Level of Reform Activity

States

Higher Activity
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Lower Activity

FL

GA, MS, TN

VA

AZ, KY, LA

AL, AR, CT, NC

CA, NJ, NM, SC

NY

ID, KS, OK, TX, UT

MD, MO, NV, SD, WV

MI, MT, NH, OR

DE, HI, ME, NE, PA, VT, WI

CO, IN, MN, ND, OH, RI, WY

AK, IA, MA, WA

IL

Lee's ranking of policies and states is only part of his analysis, however. His larger goal in this analysis is to begin to answer the question of the relationship between state policy changes and changes in the achievement gap patterns of school children.

Research Design:

Research Questions

How are state policies associated with racial and social achievement gap patterns?

How are within-school and between-school achievement gap patterns related?

Data

Lee draws on data sources from the 1992 National Assessment of Educational Progress Trial State Assessment. He focuses on mathematics achievement for 4th and 8th graders. This provided the following number of subjects:

4th Grade

  • 56,596 students
  • 4,266 schools
  • 40 states
  • 78.7% white students
  • 15.9% black students
  • 4.5% Hispanic students
  • 0.9% Native American students

8th Grade

  • 70,741 students
  • 3,601 schools
  • 40 states
  • 82% white students
  • 12.4% black students
  • 4.7% Hispanic students
  • 0.8% Native American students

State policy measures were constructed from the 1984-85 state policy survey data, measuring state responses to twenty-six separate policies.

Statistical Methods

Lee used hierarchical linear modeling to tease out student level, school level, and state level effects. Student composite score on the total NAEP mathematics assessment was treated as the dependent variable.

To calculate policy and state ranking, Lee calculated the probability of that a given state would enact a certain policy.

Funding Source

Supported by a grant from the American Educational Research Association and the National Center for Education Statistics.

 



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