Despite a long-running national ocus on closinggaps in academic achievement among America’s stu-dents, by race/ethnicity and by socioeconomic status,they remain wide and persistent. Eorts to narrowthese gaps commenced in earnest with the Elementaryand Secondary Education Act o 1965, and have con-tinued through periodic unding increases, legislativeamendments, program expansions such as Head Start,and, most recently, the No Child Let Behind Act o 2002. At the state level, basic-skill and compensatoryeducation programs have operated or many years.The frst
Parsing the Achievement Gap
report, pub-lished in 2003, ocused on expanding our knowledgeabout why these gaps exist. It asked two questions:What does the accumulated body o research revealabout the correlation between lie experiences andlie conditions on the one hand, and cognitive devel-opment and school achievement on the other? Andknowing this, are there dierences in these critical lieexperiences and conditions among racial/ethnic andsocioeconomic subgroups that mirror the dierencesin average achievement in school? The answers wereyes and yes — that is, lie experiences and conditionsaect cognitive development and academic achieve-ment and there are dierences in these experiencesand conditions among subgroups.This ollow-up report, which brings the synthesiso the research up to date, asks and answers a thirdquestion: Have these gaps in experiences and lieconditions that mirror the achievement gap narrowed,widened, or stayed the same since the earlier reportwas published?These “correlates o achievement” span the entireperiod rom birth to the time the last standardizedachievement test is taken in school. They include whathappened during inancy, in the home beore school,in the school, ater school, and in the summer. Focus-ing on these “beyond school” actors in no way dimin-ishes the critical importance o the schools and theirquality. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, “You do notlearn algebra at home.” Rather, the ocus on “beyondschool” conditions aims to round out our understand-ing o academic achievement gaps.Paul Barton and Richard Coley have tackled thetask o assembling a large and disparate body o research. They also note the importance o improvingthe research base or identiying and tracking the gaps.Our nation’s willingness to do so will say much aboutour resolve to conront and eliminate the gaps thatthreaten our society in deep and basic ways.Michael NettlesSenior Vice PresidentPolicy Evaluation and Research Center
This report was reviewed by Margaret E. Goertz, Consortium or Policy Research in Education, University o Pennsylvania; Laura Lipmann, Child Trends; and John Ralph, National Center or Education Statistics. RichardPliskin was the editor and Martin Fedowitz provided desktop publishing. Errors o act or interpretation arethose o the authors.