Ten Years after Promise, NC’s Student Achievement Gap Persists

Ten Years after Promise, NC’s Student Achievement Gap Persists


Ten years ago, North Carolina's leaders promised to dramatically close or even eliminate the academic achievement gap between white students and black, Hispanic and American Indian students. However, a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center shows that, based on the results of various achievement tests, the gap is virtually unchanged from 10 years ago.

"A decade ago, state leaders studied the achievement gap, floated some recommendations to close it, and said changes were coming to ensure minority students succeed," said Stephen Jackson, policy analyst with the NC Justice Center. "Today, it's clear that process achieved little. The will to solve this most fundamental of problems has waned and tens of thousands of children have been and continue to be deprived of a quality education as a result."

The report, available at http://www.ncjustice.org/sites/default/files/2010 Achievement Gap report.pdf, looks at end-of-grade and end-of-course tests and finds that the gaps between the scores of white students and minority students are just as wide, if not wider, than they were in the 2000-01 school year. For example, in the 2008-09 school year, 43.6 percent of black students in grades 3 through 8 passed the end-of-grade math and reading tests, compared with 76.7 percent of white students. That 33.1 percentage-point difference between proficient black and white students in 2008-2009 was virtually unchanged from the 30 percentage-point gap between those same groups during the 2000-2001 school year.

Other tests show the same disparity. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which is administered to a sample of fourth grade and eighth grade students in every state, shows that since 2000 North Carolina has made no progress in narrowing performance gaps between white and minority students. For example, on 2009 math assessments, black students had an average score that was 28 points lower than white students at the fourth grade level, compared to a 23-point difference in 2000. At the eighth grade level, black students had an average math score that was 35 points lower than white students in both 2000 and 2009.

"Unless closing the gap becomes a priority for our state's leaders, another decade will pass in which thousands of students leave our schools without fully developing their talents and realizing their potential," said Melinda Lawrence, executive director of the NC Justice Center. "The social and economic cost of those lost talents is a price North Carolina cannot afford to pay."