Achievement Gap Still Present in Indiana Schools

Caele Pemberton, Kokomo Tribune, February 4, 2018

There is still a wide achievement gap in Indiana schools.

This is according to data compiled by the Indiana Youth Institute, which each year releases data on Hoosier children. The 2018 Kids Count Data Book, supported and coordinated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, looks at a range of factors affecting childhood well-being in Indiana, including economic, health, safety and education factors.

The study looked at ISTEP, IREAD-3 scores and graduation rates and found major differences in academic success among students on different rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

These differences can often be attributed to access to services and barriers to success, according to Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

Poverty, parental engagement, community segregation and teacher performance are all factors that can attribute to the achievement gap.

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Across the state, 15.4 percent of children live in working-poor households. Over 34 percent of Hispanic families in the state are working poor, followed by black families at 28.3 percent. Just under 10 percent of white families are considered working poor.

The study found that the percentage of black and Hispanic children that passed both the math and English test in ISTEP+ was nearly half of the percentage of white children that passed both tests. The study found similar results in high school graduation rates.

Working poor families are less likely to have access to childcare, especially high-quality childcare. Safe, reliable transportation is also a barrier for many working poor families, which can limit access to jobs, educational opportunities and social services. Unemployment can have an even greater impact on child success, and black adults are more likely to be unemployed than Hispanic or white adults.

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These risks can include environmental toxins, inadequate nutrition, parental substance abuse, trauma and abuse. Children in poverty are more likely to face gaps in learning, knowledge and social-emotional development.

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The Kids Count Data Book provides some possible solutions to help curb these negative effects and close the achievement gap, including spreading awareness about social services, offering child care for parents searching for jobs, expanding education and training opportunities for parents seeking jobs and expanding high-quality child care access to all Indiana counties.

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