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Homeschooling in the United States: 1999


Major Findings

Background

The Present Study

Black-White Differences in Labor Market Outcomes

Black-White Differences in Educational Attainment

Black-White Differences in Educational Achievement

Conclusion



List of Figures

Full Report (PDF)
line Black-White Differences in Educational Achievement

A. Main Findings
The analyses of educational achievement compared mathematics and reading levels of black and white children at various points between grades 1 and 12.11 Black-white gaps in mathematics and reading achievement appeared at every grade studied. Even for children with similar levels of prior achievement one or two grades earlier,12 mathematics and reading scores of blacks were generally lower than the corresponding scores of whites.

Comparisons of the size of black-white achievement gaps were possible between nearby grades within the same sample of children, as well as across different samples of children from grades 1 to 12. The black-white mathematics gap differed in size across grades, in a manner consistent with a narrowing of the gap during elementary school, followed by a widening of the gap during junior high school and little change during senior high school. The black-white reading gap also differed in size across grades, but not in an entirely consistent manner; it grew wider between grades within two elementary school cohorts, but was narrower in cohorts observed in grades 9 and 12 than in a cohort observed in grade 2.

B. Mathematics Achievement
Compared with white children, blacks scored lower on mathematics tests at every grade level studied between grades 1 and 12 (figure 5). Black-white mathematics gaps were usually similar in size for both boys and girls.

Within the same samples of children, the black-white gap increased by two-fifths between grades 7 and 9, but changed little between grades 1 and 2, grades 3 and 5, and grades 10 and 12. Across different samples of children, the black-white math gap was two-fifths smaller in grade 5 than in grade 2, but one-half larger in grade 9 than in grade 5, and about the same size in grade 12 as in grade 9. Between the grade 2 and grade 12 samples there was no difference in the size of the black-white math gap, suggesting that any narrowing of the gap between grades 2 and 5 was largely negated by the widening of the gap between grades 5 and 9.13

Even for children who had similar math scores one or two grades earlier, a black-white mathematics gap usually appeared. A black-white mathematics gap was present in grade 2, even for children with similar math scores in grade 1; in grade 5, even for children with similar math scores in grade 3; in grade 9, even for children with similar math scores in grade 7. These gaps were 59 to 70 percent smaller than the corresponding mathematics gaps for children as a whole. (Black and white children with similar math scores in grade 10 had similar math scores in grade 12.)

C. Reading Achievement
Compared with whites, blacks also scored lower on reading tests at every grade level studied between grades 1 and 12 figure 6. Black-white reading gaps did not differ consistently for boys and girls.

The black-white reading gap grew wider between some grades, but was narrower in grades 9 and 12 than in grade 2.14 Within the same samples of children, the black-white reading gap increased by one-third between grades 1 and 2 and one-fifth between grades 3 and 5,15 while remaining about the same between grades 7 and 9, and between grades 10 and 12. Across different samples of children, the black-white reading gap was one-third smaller in grade 9 than in grade 2, and two-fifths smaller in grade 12 than in grade 2.

A black-white reading gap was generally present, even for children with similar reading scores one or two grades earlier. For children with similar reading scores one or two grades earlier, respectively, the black-white reading gap was 58 to 77 percent smaller than the corresponding black-white reading gap for children as a whole.

While findings within the same samples of children would, by themselves, suggest a widening of the black-white reading gap as children progressed through school, findings across different samples suggest an overall narrowing of the black-white reading gap between grades 2 and 9, with this narrowing persisting through grade 12. This difference in findings may be consistent with the actual experiences of children as they progressed through school, or it may arise from the use of different cohorts of children in the comparisons. The collection and analysis of longitudinal data following the same sample of children all the way from grade 2 through grade 12 would help to further address the question of how the black-white reading gap changes over the course of the school years.

D. Additional Sources of Disparities in Educational Achievement
On average, blacks in grade 1 had lower mathematics and reading scores than whites, and blacks in grade 12 also had lower mathematics and reading scores than whites. Among children with similar test scores one or two grades earlier, blacks generally acquired fewer reading skills than whites, and usually acquired fewer mathematics skills as well. These findings imply that black-white disparities in educational achievement can widen as students progress through elementary or secondary school. Possible explanations for these differences in achievement growth include differences in the school or home environments of children of different racial backgrounds that make it more difficult for blacks to acquire math or reading skills at the same pace as whites.

11. The analyses of educational achievement outcomes focused on four samples of children: (1) children between grades 1 and 2, observed from 1992 to 1993 in Cohort 1 of the Chapter 1 Prospects Study; (2) children between grades 3 and 5, observed from 1991 to 1993 in Cohort 3 of the Prospects Study; (3) children between grades 7 and 9, observed from 1991 to 1993 in Cohort 7 of the Prospects Study; and (4) children between grades 10 and 12, observed from 1990 to 1992 in the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988. Black-white differences in educational achievement were usually similar for boys and girls.
12. Prior educational achievement was defined as the corresponding mathematics or reading score for the earliest grade in which a sample of children was observed (grades 1, 3, 7, and 10, respectively).
13. Note that comparisons of the grade 2, grade 5, grade 9, and grade 12 gaps involve four separate samples of children, which, while generally similar in observed family background characteristics, may differ in terms of unobserved family background and school characteristics. For the sample of children observed between grades 10 and 12, however, there is corroborating evidence of a widening of the black-white mathematics gap by about one-fifth between grades 8 and 10.
14. Note that the comparisons of the grade 9 and 12 gaps with the grade 2 gap involve separate samples of children, which may differ in terms of family background and school characteristics.
15. For the sample of children observed between grades 10 and 12, there was corroborating evidence of a widening of the black-white reading gap by about one-sixth between grades 8 and 10.

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