White-Hispanic Achievement Gap WIDENS on 4th Grade NAEP Math

Posted on August 7, 2011

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Remember this headline from a press release from TEA?   Black-white achievement gap narrows on math NAEP (see http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=5011)

Well, the same researchers that examined the Black-White gap also looked at the Hispanic-White gap. And what did they find? Well, for 4th and 8th grade reading as well as 8th grade math, they pretty much found that nothing really changed. But, as I pointed out in this earlier post (https://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/tx-4th-grade-naep-score/), the Hispanic-white gap actually INCREASED for 4th grade math between 2007 and 2009. Texas was only one of TWO states that had a gap that widened.

This has NEVER happened before in Texas. This is the first time we have ever seen an achievement gap widen. Why didn’t TEA put out a press release? Why didn’t we hear from Governor Perry? Where was the media?

Perhaps TEA and the Governor’s Office didn’t release anything because the study was released on the heels of massively cutting the K-12 education budget. Maybe policymakers and the public would have thought to themselves, “Gee, if our largest sub-population of students is already doing worse, maybe cutting the budget is not such a great idea for our future.” Of course, given some of the bills proposed in the Legislature, some people obviously don’t much care for Hispanics and  would probably just as soon have all the Hispanics in Texas simply leave the state.

Not once has the gap ever widened. Yet, under Governor Perry’s leadership, we have managed to stall growth in math on the NAEP (see previous post) and even widen the gap between our largest two subpopulations–Hispanics and Whites. Expect the gap to widen for our 8th grade students in a few years as well since the 4th grade scores strongly predict 8th grade scores four years later. Ultimately, this decline will end up having devastating consequences in the future since the majority of our students are Hispanic and the percentage of Hispanics will only increase over time. If the state does not improve schooling outcomes for Hispanics, there will be no real economic future for Texas. But Perry will be long gone by the time that happens.

In the table below, we see that African American students did close the gap between 2005 and 2009. But, the gap between White and Hispanic students DECREASED from 2007 to 2009. It is great we closed the White-African American gap. But, African American students comprise a far smaller percentage of students than Hispanics. There is no doubt that the education level of Hispanic students will drive the overall level of educational attainment of students in Texas for decades to come.

Why can’t our leadership ever admit any flaws with our system? Why did TEA and the Governor’s Office not send out a press release? Shouldn’t TEA be about factual information rather than a PR firm for the Governor’s Office?

Now, I am sure someone from the Texas Public Policy Foundation will use such information to advocate for the removal of bilingual education. Indeed, in a very sloppy analysis, they already have a report on their website. Yet, Texas bilingual and Hispanic students outperform their peers in states that have already eliminated bilingual education (see Arizona, for example). Further, a Texas Education Agency study sent to me by a reporter found that bilingual education was very, very successful in improving student achievement for many students. In fact, just as the Austin ISD research department, the TEA researcher found that students who transitioned successfully out of bilingual education programs had greater achievement than other sub-populations, including English-speaking only students.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of Hispanic students are NOT in bilingual education. But supporting and ensuring proper implementation of bilingual education is one step the state should take to address this issue. Another is to require all elementary teachers to pass the mathematics section of the elementary certification test. We also need to keep class sizes small for such students. Of course, addressing the rampant poverty and unemployment in the southern part of the state would a long way towards making improvements in educational achievement.

Unfortunately, our legislature cut funding to K-12 and every other program that would help families in our heavily Hispanic areas of the state. So, don’t expect this gap to close again. Rather, expect it to widen further. And watch the future of the state slowly crumble.

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