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Frequently Asked Questions About the Black-White Achievement Gap Report

View frequently asked questions about the Hispanic-White achievement gap report.

Why did the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conduct the Black-White achievement gaps study?

Achievement gaps between Black and White students are featured in every NAEP report card. While the report cards provide an overview of national gaps, this study presents details on achievement gaps in the states. It examines how Black and White students' performance has changed over time, how achievement gaps in the states have changed, and how gaps in the states compare to gaps nationwide. 

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What subjects and grades are included in these reports on achievement gaps?

The report uses results from all reading and mathematics assessments conducted until 2004 for long-term trend NAEP and until 2007 for main NAEP to examine performance gaps. Long-term trend includes the performance of 9- and 13-year olds, while main NAEP reports on 4th- and 8th-graders.

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What is the racial composition of the nation and of the states?

For both grade levels, there was generally a larger percentage of White than Black students who participated in the 2007 assessments at the national level. For example, the 2007 mathematics assessment student sample was 55% White and 17% Black for fourth grade and 55% White and 17% Black for eighth grade.

Generally, there were more White students than Black students who participated in the assessments at the state level; however, there were a few states (such as Mississippi and the District of Columbia) within which there were more Black than White student participants.

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What type of information is included in the Black-White achievement gaps report?

The report uses public school data from grades 4 and 8 mathematics and reading assessments to produce the following:

  • trends in the average scores for Black and White students by state and nationally;
  • trends in the Black-White gap for each state and the nation;
  • national trends in the Black-White gap by gender and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility;
  • comparisons of state and national gaps; and
  • national gap as observed in the long-term trend assessments.

For more information, see the report abstract and download the report.

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Why do some states not have data?

Not all states have enough Black, White, or Hispanic students to obtain reliable data. For example, Wyoming does not have enough Black students, and at grade 8, the District of Columbia does not have enough White students.

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How does statistical significance relate to gaps? 

All NAEP results are based on samples, and a margin of error is associated with each score and score difference. While in most cases, White students numerically score higher than their Black or Hispanic peers, not all of these differences are within the margin of error. In looking at the gaps, it is important to consider that not all numerical differences between Black and White and between Hispanic and White students are statistically significant; only gaps and changes that are statistically significant are discussed in NAEP reports.

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Where can I find more information on my state?

To learn more about the achievement gaps in your state, try out the State Comparisons Tool. For additional information, visit to download the report.

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See frequently asked questions about the Hispanic-White achievement gap report.

Last updated 28 June 2011 (AA)
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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education