Achievement gap in the United States

Achievement gap refers to the observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates. While most of the data presented in this article comes from the United States, similar or different gaps exist for these, and other groups in other nations. Research into the causes of gaps in student achievement between low-income, minority students and middle-income, white students have been ongoing since the publication of The Coleman Report in 1966. That research suggests that both in-school factors and home/community factors impact the academic achievement of students and contribute to the gap. Groups like The Education Trust, Democrats for Education Reform and The Education Equality Project have made it their mission to close the achievement gap.

These large and persistent gaps, as noted in the trend data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, have become a focal point of education reform efforts. Efforts to combat the achievement gap have numerous but often fragmented. Such efforts have ranged from affirmative action and multicultural education to finance equalization, improving teacher quality, and school testing and accountability programs to create equal educational opportunities.


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