As the nation’s student body becomes less white, we face a dilemma about how to make sure young people of all backgrounds have access to a quality education.
I use the word dilemma because, although they make up a declining share of students nationwide, white students continue to outperform their black and Latino peers. Additionally, school segregation is growing.
Two new reports attempt to provide both perspective and areas for improvement.
The first report, from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), looks at how the black-white composition of a school relates to the black-white achievement gap. Using 2011 eighth-grade math scores, the report found that white students attended schools that were about 9 percent black on average, while black students went to schools that were closer to 48 percent black. For context, nationally, black students made up 15 percent of the eighth-grade student population that year.
The study is notable because it’s the first that the federal government has conducted on the relationship between the two issues (although academics like Stanford University’s Sean Reardon have looked extensively at what drives the achievement gap).
The NCES report found that test scores were lower in schools with a higher percentage of black students. That proved especially true for black male students, and it was true even when things like socioeconomic status were controlled for.