Persistent achievement gap vexes education reformers: Six takeaways

No education issue has received more attention in recent years – but with less apparent progress – than the achievement gaps for minority and low-income students. The Center on Education Policy released a study Tuesday that looks at trends in all 50 states. Despite a few bright spots, the picture is bleak. Here are a few of the study’s major findings:

Progress on achievement gaps sluggish

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Newscom
President Obama chats with students at Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., a school that has significantly closed the achievement gap.

For the first time, this report put a date on how long it would take for various achievement gaps to close if trends continue at their current rates (a scenario the report acknowledges is unlikely, because the pace of progress tends to slow as gaps close).

In a state like Florida, which is making comparatively good headway on closing gaps, it would take 28 years to close the African-American/white achievement gap for fourth-grade reading. In Washington State, closing that gap would take 105 years.

The achievement gaps for Latino students are closing a bit faster, but other gaps – such as the native American/white gap for reading, or some of the male/female gaps – aren’t closing at all or are widening.

“It’s going to take years to close the gap if we only do what we’re doing today,” says Jack Jennings, executive director of the Center for Education Policy. “After all those years of talking, we show very limited progress.”

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