The achievement gap matters because it grows over time, having a lasting impact on students, schools, and communities.
Low-income students and black and Hispanic students are less likely to pass exams in math, reading, civics, and science. And students who don’t perform well in elementary school are more likely to fall further behind and drop out. One recent study found that nearly a quarter of students who don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade won’t graduate from high school on time, compared to 9% of children with basic reading skills and only 4% of proficient readers.
Low-income and black and Hispanic students are less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to enroll in college, and less likely to graduate from college. Once they are adults, they’re more likely to be unemployed and likely to earn less.
Analysis by McKinsey & Company, The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools, found that narrowing the gap between black and Hispanic students and their white peers would have added up to $525 billion (or 4%) to the GDP in a single year; closing the gap for low-income students could add $670 billion (or 5%) to the GDP in a single year. The cumulative effects of this narrowing would be many times greater.
McKinsey & Company, The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools (2009)
NAEP, Grade 4 and 8 – reading
NAEP Grade 4 and 8 – math
NAEP Grade 8 - science
NAEP Grade 4 and 8 – civics
AFGR (grad rate)
Percent of recent high school completers enrolled in 2- and 4-year colleges
4-year college graduation rate
Unemployment Rate (BLS) – quarterly averages
Median Weekly Earnings (BLS)
Annie E. Casey Foundation, Early Warning Confirmed (2013)
James Heckman, Schools, skills, and synapses (2008)