Achievement Gaps

There is an intersesting study being reported (at the annual Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness meetings in D.C.) on elementary school achievement gap dynamics. The study indicates that the usual “racial/ethnic” gaps are seen in early years, but that a lot of gap-closing happens by fifth grade.

“We found significant achievement gaps within racial and ethnic groups,” said Pamela Davis-Kean, a developmental psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) who conducted the study with U-M post-doctoral fellow Justin Jager.

“We also found a significant proportion of students who caught up to the high achievers in their groups by the end of fifth grade, especially in reading. This shows that schooling does have an impact in closing the achievement gap for substantial numbers of children.”

About 30 percent of EuroAmericans, 26 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Asian Americans were in high achieving groups by the spring semester of fifth grade.

This sounds like an interesting study, but so far it is only reported in this press release. We await more information.

Comments

  1. #1 R N B
    March 14, 2008

    It is interesting, but I think the mention of race is misplaced and possibly misleading in this (not that I want to discard any race/achievement causality, just I think the effect may be small – let’s look at the achievement of adopted kids for proof). But what seems significant, what I think studies should emphasise, is the impact of culture, for example income or religion versus academic achievement. I have no conclusion here, but I think your ScienceBlogs colleague at “GeneExpression” quoted some studies on this for older kids just a few weeks ago (Feb 21).

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    March 14, 2008

    In this case I would take “race” as a stand in for “identity” or “ethnic category” or something. Where you see “ethnic/racial” above, that is me substituting “ethnic/racial” for their “racial.” There is no evidence that genetically determined features that define “race” also define anything that would be measured by any of this evaluation or testing.

  3. #3 R N B
    March 14, 2008

    Thank you for clarifying. I have no disagreement with you, your comment reassures me further, but I question the tone of the original source material for precisely that reason. I’d guess that the relative emphasis that parents put onto reading diverse materials, questioning them, analysing them (probably functions of culture and religion – not of race) does have an impact on kids’ development and achievement.

  4. #4 Crimson Wifec
    March 15, 2008

    It seemed a bit unclear to me from reading the press release whether the researchers actually looked at reading test scores vs. just the proxy of which reading group the child was in. The latter is problematic given that pushy parents will often pester teachers into moving their child to a higher group than is actually warranted.

    On the other hand, there are bright kids (particularly boys) who are just “late bloomers”. My DH didn’t learn to read until he was 7 but ended up graduating valedictorian of his high school class.

  5. #5 Dr. K.
    March 15, 2008

    I am very interested in seeing the published version of this work!

  6. #6 Jarvis
    March 21, 2008

    I’d still say that the parents have the more significant impact on their children’s educational achievement. How they give their children guidance and their upbringing.

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