Posted on June 24, 2011

Achievement Gap for Hispanic Students Hasn’t Narrowed in 20 Years

Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, Christian Science Monitor, June 23, 2011

In 20 years, the national achievement gap between Hispanic students and their non-Hispanic white peers hasn’t budged.

But hints of progress can be found with a closer look at low-income Hispanics or those who already know the English language. And some states stand out for gaps considerably lower than the national average.

This first-of-its kind report on the Hispanic-white gap comes as Congress is considering how to rewrite No Child Left Behind, the federal law that has attempted to narrow gaps based on race, income, and other factors. Questions loom about how much of that accountability system will stay in place, and what specific role the federal government will play in pushing for the progress of Hispanic students.


Thursday’s report, “Achievement Gaps,” is the latest analysis from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which tracks student achievement over time and allows for comparison among states. This analysis focuses on reading and math scores in Grades 4 and 8 between 1990 and 2009.

Since the early 1990s, “there’s been overall growth in reading and math for both whites and Hispanics, . . . but the gap really hasn’t closed,” says Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which oversees NAEP.


In fourth-grade math in 2009, the average Hispanic score of 227 corresponds with the “basic” skill level, and it indicates that students can make a pictograph of given information, and can determine, in a multiple-choice question, how many given pieces cover a shape.

The white average score of 248, on the other hand, is just one point shy of reaching the “proficient” skill level, and it indicates that these students can subtract a two-digit number from a three-digit number and solve a word problem involving quarts and cups.


For Hispanics who already know English, the gaps with whites have narrowed. That gap was 15 points in Grade 8 reading, for instance, while ELL Hispanics scored 39 points lower than non-ELL Hispanics.

Among low-income students, the gaps between Hispanics and whites have narrowed in reading and eighth-grade math since 2003.