Slowly but surely the achievement gap between white and Latino students is narrowing, according to new federal data.
The report, known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” showed a gradual reduction of the achievement gap as black and Hispanic students have made strong gains on math and reading tests. According to the study, Hispanic students made up a third to half of the gulf that had separated their reading scores from the average scores of white students. Similar gains were made in math.
The data, which was released Thursday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), takes a long term look at scoring trends and is known as the gold standard of assessing these trends. The long-term exams test students at ages 9, 13, and 17 on the same material since the 1970s.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters, NCES associate commissioner Peggy Carr touted the growth of minority students test performance in the past 40 years.
“Black and Hispanic students made larger gains than white students across all these age groups,” Carr said.
Hispanic students at all age levels made gains in their math and reading scores. On a scale of zero to 500, 9 year old Latino students scored an average of 25 points higher in reading and 32 points high in math than Hispanics in the 1970s. And 17-year-old Hispanics scored a total of 21 points higher in reading and 17 points higher in math in 2012 than they did 40 years ago. Overall in reading, the Hispanic-white score gap was cut in half, decreasing from 41 to 21 between 1975 and 2011-2012.
Although the gains among older students weren’t as great as those for elementary school students, Carr said that the gains were actually a good thing. More 17-year-olds of all backgrounds with shaky academic records were staying in school instead of dropping out.
“A lot more students are staying in school more than they have in the past,” Carr said. With all the students staying in school, “it’s a good thing they’re not going down.”
But its not just test scores that are changing. The report also showed striking demographic changes among students since the 70s.
In 2012, 56% of students were white, 15% were black, 21% were Hispanic and 6% were Asian. Compared to 1978, 80% of U.S. students were white, 13% were black, 6% were Hispanic and 1% were Asian.