The Geography of Racial/Ethnic Test Score Gaps
Reardon, Sean F.
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The authors estimate racial/ethnic achievement gaps in several hundred metropolitan areas and several thousand school districts in the United States using the results of roughly 200 million standardized math and English language arts (ELA) tests administered to public school students from 2009 to 2013. They show that achievement gaps vary substantially, ranging from nearly zero in some places to larger than 1.5 standard deviations in others. Economic, demographic, segregation, and schooling characteristics explain 43%–72% of the geographic variation in these gaps. The strongest correlates of achievement gaps are local racial/ethnic differences in parental income and educational attainment, local average parental education levels, and patterns of racial/ethnic segregation, consistent with a theoretical model in which family socioeconomic factors affect educational opportunity partly through residential and school segregation patterns.