The term “achievement gap” is often defined as the differences between the test scores of minority and/or low-income students and the test scores of their White and Asian peers. But achievement gaps in test scores affect many different groups. Some groups may trail at particular points, for example, boys in the early years and girls in high school math and science. Differences between the scores of students with different backgrounds (ethnic, racial, gender, disability, and income) are evident on large-scale standardized tests. Test score gaps often lead to longer-term gaps, including high school and college completion and the kinds of jobs students secure as adults.
Student Groups Experiencing Achievement Gaps
- Racial and ethnic minorities
- English language learners
- Students with disabilities
- Students from low-income families
Indicators of Achievement Gaps
- Performance on tests (statewide tests, SATs, etc.)
- Access to key opportunities (advanced mathematics, physics, higher education, etc.)
- Attainments (high school diploma, college degree, employment)
Four Ethnic Groups Affected by Achievement Gaps
American Indians and Alaska Natives
- American Indian/Alaska Natives (NEA, 2007 (NEA, 2007) (PDF, 741 KB, 8pp) Learning the Culture of American Indian Students: Two States Step Forward – Requiring educators to learn and incorporate culture into their teaching.
- Report on the Status of American Indians and Alaska Natives in Education (NEA, 2005) (PDF, 1,825 KB, 54pp) (Note: This file may take a long time to load.) This report looks at educational attainment and performance of American Indian and Alaska Native students and includes best practices for educators.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
- Beyond Black and White: API Students and School Desegregation (NEA, 2008) (PDF, 343 KB, 4pp) This report looks at the API student population over the years and how they were affected by the Brown v. Board of Education case.
- A Report on the Status of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Education (NEA, 2005) (PDF, 604 KB, 46 pp) This report describes the diversity among AAPI students, their academic achievement, the racism they experience, and resources for working with these students.
- News We Lose: Black Student Gains (NEA, 2008) (PDF, 391 KB, 4pp) Why Black students, their teachers, and their parents must hear about their victories.
- A Report on the Status of Blacks in Education-Moving Beyond Barriers (NEA, 2008) (PDF, 4098 KB, 78 pp) (Note: This file may take a long time to load. ) In this report, leading experts address three top challenges in the education of today’s Black students: closing Black student achievement gaps, educating Black males, and high-school dropout prevention.
- Hispanics – Special Education and English Language Learners (NEA, 2007) (PDF, 390 KB, 6pp) Misconceptions surrounding language differences vs. learning disabilities.
- A Report on the Status of Hispanics in Education: Overcoming a History of Neglect (NEA, 2007) ( PDF, 633 KB, 90 pp) This report discusses the problems many Hispanic students must overcome — language, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers — to succeed in school.
- Fragile Futures: Risk and Vulnerability Among Latino High Achievers (Educational Testing Service, 2005) (PDF, 38 pp) This report profiles high-achieving Latino students and the language, culture, and immigration-status issues that can affect their motivation and achievement and examines policy and program options to help the many Latino high achievers.
Other Groups Affected by Achievement Gaps
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People (GLBT)
- A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education (2009) (PDF, 5.21 MB, 90pp) (Note: May take a long time to load.) This report describes problems facing many GLBT students: missing school, underachieving, dropping out as a direct consequence of harassment suffered at school and homelessness because of their families’ hostility toward them. It also discusses challenges faced by GLBT school employees.