The percentage of middle and high school students who pass both the English/language arts and mathematics components of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) have increased since the 1998-99 school year, but significant achievement gaps exist between Asian and white students and their Hispanic and African-American classmates, according to a new report from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP). What’s more, the report, Is the Achievement Gap in Indiana Narrowing?, also found a similar achievement gap between low-income students and the rest of their classmates.
“If you look below the surface, you can see there are a significant number of poor and minority students who are not succeeding academically and are falling through the cracks,” said Terry Spradlin, associate director of CEEP.
In addition to the analysis of ISTEP+, the report also looked at the last seven years of scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), scores from Advanced Placement tests, and completion rates for high school and college. Without exception, ever-widening gaps were present between Asian and white students and their African-American and Hispanic peers. Similar results were found when scores were disaggregated by income. In fact, the study found that poor and minority students in Indiana are already a full two years behind their peers by the fourth grade. The gap widens as they age, and reaches four years by high school.
Indeed, the percentage of students who pass both the English/language arts and mathematics components of the ISTEP+ falls dramatically the longer a student is in school (see chart below). At the same time, the achievement gaps for Hispanic and African-American students are much more pronounced in grades eight and ten than in the earlier grades. For example, in grade three, the achievement gap between white and African-American students was 25 percent; in grade ten, however, the gap was 38 percent, with 63 percent of white students passing both tests compared to only 25 percent of black students.
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The report found similar results when it disaggregated student passing rates based on income. The percentage of students who passed both the English/language arts and mathematics components of the ISTEP+ increased for all ethnic groups from 2001-02 to 2004-05, but significant achievement gaps remained-and grew larger in higher grades. In grade three, 74 percent of students who paid for their lunches passed both the English/language arts and mathematics components of ISTEP+ compared to only 50 percent of students who received free or reduced-price lunches (F/R). By the tenth grade, scores for both groups of students had declined, but the achievement gap had grown, with 65 percent of paying students passing both tests compared to only 35 percent of F/R students-an alarming 30 percent difference.
Researchers offered several suggestions of ways to shrink the achievement gap, including all-day kindergarten for some children, better teachers in urban schools, and higher expectations for the most disadvantaged children. It also called on policymakers to pay closer attention to expulsion and suspension practices in the middle grades and suggested the creation of a high school improvement task force that would serve as a clearinghouse for information on effective reforms.
The complete report is available at http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/Achievement_Gap_091405.pdf.