Skip Navigation
Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Minorities
NCES 2007-039
September 2007

Chapter 3. Achievement

Indicator 9: Trends in Reading and Mathematics Achievement
Indicator 10: Reading and Mathematics Achievement
Indicator 11: International Comparisons in Mathematics
Indicator 12: Advanced Coursetaking in High School
Indicator 13: Advance Placement (AP) Courses
Indicator 14: College Entrance Exams

Chapter 3 focuses on different measures of academic achievement among elementary and secondary school students. On the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), White students continue to outperform Black and Hispanic students in both reading and mathematics. The score gaps for Black and White students were smaller in 2004 than in the early 1970s for both assessments and all three age groups tested. The score gaps for Hispanic and White students were smaller for some age groups, but were not different for 13-year-olds on the reading assessment or for 9-year-olds on the mathematics assessment (indicator 9). On the main NAEP reading assessment, higher percentages of Asian/Pacific Islander and White 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-graders scored at or above Proficient than did American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students at the same grade level. On the mathematics assessment, a higher proportion of Asians/Pacific Islanders in the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades scored at or above Proficient than did 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-graders of all other races/ethnicities shown (indicator 10). On an international level, U.S. 15-year-olds scored lower than the international average on the 2003 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics literacy assessment. Within the United States, Asian students again scored higher than their Black and Hispanic peers. Hispanic students also scored higher than Blacks. Additionally, students native to this country scored higher than those who were first-generation or nonnative (indicator 11).

Another way to measure student achievement is by the courses students take. Knowledge of mathematics and the sciences is increasingly important for secondary students heading into the workforce or postsecondary education. In general, higher percentages of White and Asian/Pacific Islander high school students reported completing advanced mathematics and science courses than high school students of the other races/ethnicities shown (indicator 12). High school students who wish to advance in a particular area of study may take Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Students who take the AP exam can earn college credit based on their scores. From 1999 to 2005, the number of minority students taking AP exams increased by a larger percentage than the number of White students. Asians had the highest mean AP exam score, while Blacks had the lowest (indicator 13).

Between 1996 and 2006, the percentage of SAT test takers who were minorities increased by 7 percentage points. As with other indicators of achievement, there were differences between races/ethnicities in SAT scores, with Asian/Pacific Islander students scoring higher than all other minority groups in both the verbal and mathematics sections of the test. The ACT has seen a similar increase in minority test takers. Asian/Pacific Islander test takers also had the highest English and Mathematics ACT scores of any minority group (indicator 14).