Academic journal article American Journal of Educational Studies

Closing the Achievement Gap: Identifying Strand Score Differences

Academic journal article American Journal of Educational Studies

Closing the Achievement Gap: Identifying Strand Score Differences

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

An achievement gap between black and white students in the United States has existed since schools were established. Movements such as desegregation and parts of the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 were initiated to close the achievement gap. However, an achievement gap still persists. While research typically attempts to explain why black students and white students achievement differs, this paper attempts to identify areas where proficient and non-proficient black students differ. The current study used a repeated measures analysis of variance to evaluate if the achievement gap between proficient and non-proficient black students is closing, as well as a logistic regression to identify on which strands the students differ, 10 years after the implementation of NCLB.

Keywords: Differential Item Functioning, Achievement Gap

Introduction

Evidence of the Black-White mathematics achievement gap permeates the literature (Lubienski, 2002; Campbell, Hombo, &Mazzeo, 2000; Jencks & Phillips, 1998; Lee, 2002). Some researchers claim that demographic variables such as poverty (Meier, 2002) or parental involvement lead to the achievement gap (McLoyd, 1990; Pong, 1997) while others claim that the achievement gap is a function of poor teachers (Valencia, Valezuela, Sloan, & Foley, 2004). Whichever the reason, there still exits a gap. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act of 2001 aimed at closing achievement gaps between groups of students and increasing test scores for all students. Yet while many have acknowledged there is a gap, are schools really closingit? Why do some students of a subpopulation achieve while others do not? Moreover, are researchers and educators helping schools identify on which specific strands the achievement gap exists?

This study uses three years of Arkansas assessment scores from the Arkansas end-of-year Benchmark exam to investigate if the achievement gap between proficient and non-proficient black students is closing. A secondary investigation used logistic regression to identify strands where students are predicted to not be proficient in an effort to narrow remediation efforts.

Literature Review

On May 17, 1954 the Supreme Court delivered its ruling on "Brown versus the Board of Education." Black Americans throughout the country understood that this ruling would bring about equality in education for everyone. The ruling supported that the rights for Black students and White students were equal on the grounds of educations. There appeared to be no gradations, no hierarchy, and no differences. The grounds for all students were to be equal.

Prior to the Brown versus the Board of Education ruling, Plessy versus Ferguson, 1896, established "separate but equal" schools for Black and White children. This arrangement allowed for segregation of Black and White students to be permitted, but under this ruling, each student was to be provided access to the same educational opportunities.

In the 1960s the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reviewed student data and revealed a disparity between Black and White achievement (Campbell et al., 2000). Students, in essence, were not being educated equally. Despite reformation efforts to ensure Black and White students had access to the same educational opportunities under the "separate but equal" law (Plessy vs. Ferguson, 1896), the students continued to be serviced differently (Cook, 2005). It was Chief Justice Earl Warren who concluded "Separate educational facilities are not equal" that led to the decision in Brown versus the Board of Education and ultimately the desegregation of schools.

While the disparity in achievement between black and white students narrowed from the 1970s into the 1980s (Tate, 1997), the gap began widening again (Lee, 2002) during the 1990s. This trend has continued to present day.

This disparity in academic achievement is known to scholars as the achievement gap. …

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