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Progress Stalled In Black-White Achievement Gap

 PRINCETON, N.J. - After a long period of progress in narrowing the Black-White educational attainment and achievement gaps, that progress has stalled, according to a new report from Educational Testing Service titled, "The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped." Moreover, some research indicates that reaching equality could take 50 to 100 years if current patterns continue.

It has been 45 years since Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his landmark and controversial report on the deterioration of low-income Black families, "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," and evidence gathered over the past several decades supports the assertion that deteriorating family structure, neighborhoods, and schools threaten to undermine the development of disadvantaged children.

This report, written by Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley of ETS's Policy Information Center, examines the periods of progress and stagnation over the past several decades in closing the achievement gap; looking for the factors that contributed to the progress and the reasons for why it stopped.

Coley, Director of the ETS Policy Information Center explains, "National Assessment of Educational Progress data starting from the 1970s reveal a steady narrowing of the gap until the late 1980s. The last 20 years have essentially yielded a period of stability in spite of a lot of national attention to the gap, and measures taken that were expected to narrow it. We want to know, 'why?'"

The report focuses on three time periods beginning with the 1970s and 80s during which a substantial narrowing of the gap was seen in the subjects of reading and mathematics. Next, the research shows that the decades since the late 1980s have produced a sustained period of no change in the gap. Finally, the authors go back to the beginning of the 20th Century when the gap in educational attainment levels first started to narrow with progress halting, ironically, for those born in the mid-1960s when landmark legislation such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act created optimism for educational and societal equality.

Furthermore, Coley and Barton describe a number of developments that could be implicated in blocking continued progress — including sensitive ones — such as inadequate care in early childhood, the decline of communities and neighborhoods, the explosion of single-parent families, the employment plight of Black males, and stalled intergenerational mobility out of seriously disadvantaged neighborhoods. These areas are important because family, demographic and environmental factors can have a large positive or negative effect on student achievement.

The report points particularly to the lack of movement of succeeding generations out of seriously disadvantaged neighborhoods so the effect becomes cumulative as successive generations remain in these areas. "The data show that many Black people have been stuck in neighborhoods deprived of social and economic capital for several generations. Although only 5 percent of White children born between 1955 and 1970 grew up in highly-disadvantaged neighborhoods, 84 percent of Black children did so."

"Approaches to restart progress will require addressing this problem on multiple levels," Coley says. "Entire neighborhoods may have to be uplifted in terms of their economic capital, school quality, safety and health structures."

Barton, a senior associate with ETS's Policy Information Center adds, "The challenges to be faced in restarting progress in closing the gap are indeed daunting. However, the prospect of waiting 50 or 100 years — as economist Derek Neal of the University of Chicago has projected based on past trends — is simply unacceptable."

Download "The Black-White Achievement Gap: When Progress Stopped" for free athttp://www.ets.org/research/perc/pic/.

Addressing the achievement gap has also been the focus of a series of ETS symposia that have been convened over the past seven years. The topic to be addressed this fall at ETS's 14th annual Achievement Gap Symposium is, "The Family: America's Smallest School." The symposium will be held October 18th at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. For more information please visit http://www.ets.org/sponsored_events/2010_achievement_gap/.

The achievement gap in education refers to the different levels of academic performance by students from a variety of racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. ETS is committed to narrowing the gap with innovative products and services that focus on issues such as education reform, educational assessment, school improvement and teaching methods. For more addressing achievement gap resources please visithttp://www.ets.org/education_topics/achievement_gap/.

About ETS

At nonprofit ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide. 



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