A first-of-its kind NAEP report finds hints of progress, but
mostly a stubborn achievement gap between Hispanic and white
In 20 years, the national achievement gap between Hispanic
students and their non-Hispanic white peers hasn't budged.
But hints of progress can be found with a closer look at low-
income Hispanics or those who already know the English language. And
some states stand out for gaps considerably lower than the national
This first-of-its kind report on the Hispanic-white gap comes as
Congress is considering how to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the
federal law that has attempted to narrow gaps based on race, income,
and other factors. Questions loom about how much of that
accountability system will stay in place, and what specific role the
federal government will play in pushing for the progress of Hispanic
"I fear people will say ... that these kids are not worth it,
[and that they] come with all these problems outside of school that
make closing the achievement gap impossible," says Raul Gonzalez,
director of legislative affairs at the National Council of La Raza,
a Latino advocacy group based in Washington.
Gaps may not have closed yet, but it's too soon to give up, Mr.
Gonzalez says. Policies are changing - moving toward more accurate
assessments for foreign-language speakers, for instance. "We are
talking about the academic achievement of poor minority kids....
That conversation is completely different today than it was 10 years
ago, and it's because of this focus on raising standards and
Thursday's report, "Achievement Gaps," is the latest analysis
from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which
tracks student achievement over time and allows for comparison among
states. This analysis focuses on reading and math scores in Grades 4
and 8 between 1990 and 2009.
Since the early 1990s, "there's been overall growth in reading
and math for both whites and Hispanics,... but the gap really hasn't
closed," says Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for
Education Statistics, which oversees NAEP.
In 2009, the national gaps between Hispanics and whites ranged
from 21 to 26 points on NAEP scales. The gaps are significant, Mr.
Buckley says. In practical terms, here's an example of what they
In fourth-grade math in 2009, the average Hispanic score of 227
corresponds with the "basic" skill level, and it indicates that
students can make a pictograph of given information, and can
determine, in a multiple-choice question, how many given pieces
cover a shape. …