New Report Examines Race, Gender Gaps in Academic Achievement

Sharise M. Darby, AXcess News, May 21, 2008

Blacks and Hispanics are falling behind in academic achievement, according to a report issued this week. These two groups have proportionately fewer graduates from high school and college compared to whites and Asian-Americans.

In the report, the American Association of University Women analyzes girls’ academic achievement over the last 35 years and the differences in academic achievement by race and family income.

According to the report, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college than white students, and smaller percentages of black men earn college degrees compared to their proportion of the general population.

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At Clemson University, in Clemson, S.C., the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education examines and addresses issues in education that affect blacks at all levels.

“We have to make sure that our work and our issues are not just addressing the deficit that exists between African-Americans and other groups,” said Lamont Flowers, distinguished professor of educational leadership at Clemson and the center’s director. “We take a systematic view of education, particularly for African-Americans, and we are trying to better understand what is happening to improve their education and outcomes,” he said.

The center conducts research and program evaluations, creates educational programs and pursues collaborations and partnerships.

By 2011, the center hopes to conduct research into academic, social, economic and historical issues that affect African-Americans in the state and the country.

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Beyond race, students’ family income can also affect their academic achievement in high school and college.

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that children from lower-income families are less likely than children from higher-income families to graduate from high school. Sudents from lower-income families were approximately five times more likely than students from higher-income families to drop out of high school in 2003, the most recent year for which statistics were available.

“Poverty and income relate very closely to the type of educational experiences students receive,” Flowers said. “It also relates to the type of community a student may be in. In many disadvantaged communities, there are disadvantaged schools that follow. The economic factor is a very real indicator of achievement.”

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Over the past few years, the gaps in college graduation have decreased between women and men, but these gaps are still apparent through race and ethnicity.

Hill said that the report focuses on the decrease in the achievement gap between girls and boys, but she said African-Americans and Hispanics need attention.

“African-Americans and Hispanics are not getting the education they deserve and need,” Hill said. “Education is not a zero sum gain, so we should be improving education for all children.

[Editor’s Note: The AAUW report “Women’s Educational Gains and the Gender Earnings Gap (2008)” can be read or downloaded as a PDF file here.]

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