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Vol. 45, No. 46

June 28, 2011

Hispanic-White Achievement Gaps Smaller in Missouri than Most States

Missouri is among a handful of states that have narrower achievement gaps between Hispanic and white students in reading and math at grades 4 and 8, according to a national report released last week.  Smaller gaps are generally viewed as positive, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The NCES report, “Achievement Gaps: How Hispanic and White Students in Public Schools Perform in Mathematics and Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” examines how Hispanic and white students performed on the 2009 NAEP assessments and compares those results to previous years.

The report shows that over the past two decades, scores for U.S. white and Hispanic students have increased on both assessments in both grades, but the national achievement gap has not changed significantly in either subject at either grade.  Nationally, Hispanic students trailed white students by more than two grade levels.

“It is gratifying to know, overall, that Hispanic students in Missouri are receiving good support academically, but the report does shed light on how serious the achievement gap is in each state and across the nation,” said Dr. Sharon Hoge, assistant commissioner at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  “I credit our state’s strong system of supplemental education services for students in need of extra help.  However, we still have challenging work ahead to ensure all Missouri students are learning in these core subject areas that are essential to lifetime success.”

The states and jurisdiction with smaller gaps than the national average for both subjects and grades include Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, Wyoming and the Department of Defense Education Activity schools. The report indicates most other states included in the analysis tracked close to the national average, except two; California and Connecticut had larger achievement gaps than the national average in math and in 4th grade reading.

While national trend data come from as far back as 1990 for math and 1992 for reading, the earliest Missouri results that include reliable data about Hispanic students come from 2003 (fourth-grade reading and math), 2005 (eighth-grade reading) and 2007 (eighth-grade math).

Missouri findings included in the report are:

Math

  • Compared to the earliest NAEP scores available for Hispanic students, the gap between white and Hispanic students in Missouri has narrowed in both grades four and eight.
  • In 2009, Hispanic students in Missouri scored 8 points lower than white students in grade four, below the national gap of 21 points.
  • The 2009 gap between Hispanic and white eighth-graders in Missouri (6 points) was also below the national gap of 26 points.  The scores of Hispanic eighth-graders were 14 points higher than in 2007 – a statistically significant increase – while white eighth-graders scored 2 points higher (not a statistically significant change).

Reading

  • Compared to the earliest NAEP scores available for Hispanic students, the gap between white and Hispanic students has not made a statistically significant change in either grade. 
  • In 2009, Hispanic students in Missouri scored 12 points lower than white students in grade four. This was less than half the national gap of 25 points.
  • The 2009 gap between Hispanic and white eighth-graders in Missouri (10 points) was also below the national gap of 24 points. While the 2009 scores of Hispanic eighth-graders were 12 points higher than in 2007, this increase was not considered statistically significant based on the margin of error.

Funded by Congress, the NAEP has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969.  Through the Nation’s Report Card, the NAEP informs the public about what American students know and can do in various subject areas, and it compares achievement among states, large urban districts and various demographic groups.