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Get the Facts on the Achievement Gap

January 25, 2017
  • Why Does the Gap Exist?

    There are many theories explaining why the gap exists. Some of these include: 

    Teacher and school quality: Many experts have argued that high-quality teachers and high-quality schools can close the achievement gap. Harvard’s Roland Fryer found that attending a high-quality school would lead to “dramatically improved life trajectories” for students. 

    Segregation: Many students attend racially and socio-economically segregated schools, and yet research has shown that integrated schools help to reduce achievement gaps, help low-income students make academic progress, and reduce drop-out rates.

    Preschool: Some research suggests that high-quality pre-kindergarten programs would reduce the kindergarten readiness gap.

    Child’s Environment and Parenting: Research has shown that low-income, minority children are exposed to more pollution in utero, which may contribute to early deficits. Other research has found that higher income parents spend more time with their children and read more to their children. Government data shows that 90% of white children aged 3 – 5 are read to by a family member three or more times a week, compared to 77% of black students and 71% of Hispanic students. These environmental differences seem to have lasting impacts on children’s learning.


    Richard V. Reeves and Kimberly Howard, Brookings, The Parenting Gap (2016)

    NCES, Table 207.10, Number of 3- to 5-year-olds not yet enrolled in kindergarten and percentage participating in home literacy activities with a family member, by type and frequency of activity and selected child and family characteristics: 2001, 2007, and 2012

    Eric Hanushek, EdNext, Valuing Teachers: How much is a good teacher worth? (2011)

    Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Harvard, Injecting Charter School Best Practices Into Traditional Public Schools: Evidence from Field Experiments (2014)

    Will Dobbie, Roland G. Fryer, Jr., Are High Quality Schools Enough to Close the Achievement Gap? Evidence from a Social Experiment in Harlem (2009)     

    Allison Friedman-Krauss, W. Steven Barnett, and Milagros Nores, Center for American Progress, How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps? (2016)

    The Century Foundation, The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms (Feb. 10, 2016)

    Janet Currie, NBER, Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences (February 2011)