Eye on Education

Ohio’s Achievement Gap Has Grown



The achievement gap between Ohio’s white and African American students has grown.

At least, that’s according to the results results of a series of national tests known as “the Nation’s Report Card.”

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, administers math and English tests to fourth and eighth graders every other year.

Chad Aldis, the Vice President for Ohio Policy and Advocacy for the Fordham Institute, said he’s a little disappointed in Ohio’s overall outcomes, especially because the knowledge gap in both math and English between the state’s white and African American fourth graders has slightly increased.

“That gap is already way too big,” Aldis said. “Our achievement gap is wider than the national average in both of those categories, which is something we need to continue working on addressing.”

According to this year’s results, Ohio’s students rank slightly above the national average in all areas, and haven’t shown any significant improvement over their 2011 scores.

Aldis thinks the recent adoption of a new set of learning expectations known as the Common Core will help challenge all of Ohio’s students and put them on a more even playing field with students from traditionally higher performing states.

“We need to make sure we’re clearly doing as well as other states like Massachusetts, which I think we all know we can compete with,” Aldis said. “We just have to make sure we have the bar high enough.”

Aldis said he hopes to see at least a modest increase in the next round of NAEP test scores.


  • Toughlove49

    Is the gap being measure in standard units? And is the growth in the gap statistically significant? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then this is another tempest in a teapot. The black/white IQ gap has remained remarkably static at about one standard deviation over the last century, ever since standardized testing began in the United States; and achievement or learning gap is mostly an effect of the IQ gap. These minor movements of achievement test scores in one state or another over a one-year period, which attract so much attention in the news media, are mostly insignificant statistical noise. The gap isn’t closing, and it will probably never be eliminated.

    Also, it is ludicrous to believe that a more rigorous curriculum will lead to a shrinking of the gap. A half century ago, it was a reasonable hypothesis that the black/white gap was caused by inferior schools attended by black students (and they were indeed inferior!). But this hypothesis didn’t pan out over time. Black students bused to “good” (i.e mostly white) schools did just about as poorly as blacks in “bad” (i.e mostly black) schools. The gap is not rooted in school differences, as the disappointing results of busing proved. If school quality were an important factor in producing the gap, then we’d expect to see similar scores for black and white students who sit in the same classroom with the same teachers year after year. We don’t. By making the curriculum harder for black students who are already struggling with an easy curriculum, the most likely outcome is an even higher failure rate for black students. The last thing we need is to push more black students to drop out of high school. Finishing high school — even if the cognitive demands of doing so are relatively low — is such an important milestone as far as life outcomes are concerned, that we shouldn’t do anything that might lower the already abysmal black graduation rate. High school graduates, even if they aren’t particularly bright or well-educated, earn more over their lifetimes, stay out of prison better and stay off welfare better than dropouts. A high school diploma indicates not so much a threshold of acquired knowledge as a threshold of desirable personal character traits, such as self-control and perseverance in the pursuit of long-term goals. I say: learn from the US Armed Forces. They do an admirable job in training people with below-average IQ’s to be highly productive in their jobs. Apply the same approach to low-IQ groups in the public school system. Ability tracking, or IQ-appropriate education, is truly in the best interest of all students, both the gifted, the average students, and the slow learners. The recent fad of forcing low-ability students into AP classes has been a disaster.

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