Gaps of the day: Black-white reading


Welcome back to our series on equity gaps in Minnesota. We’re starting with a tour through some of the education measurements, and will be exploring other areas as well. As always, the existence of any gap in Minnesota is a problem. Minnesota’s education system should work for all Minnesotans, and our sense of urgency to address equity gaps shouldn’t depend on whether or not we have “the biggest gap in the country.”

With that preamble, here are today’s gaps: reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

(Data from NAEP)

Minnesota has the 9th largest gap between white and black students on the 4th grade reading test and the 7th largest gap on the 8th grade reading test.

One clarification I’d like to mention is that these ranks don’t reflect statistical significance. Most states’ gaps are statistically significantly larger or smaller than most other states’ gaps. In Minnesota’s case for these two graphs (and the two previous graphs), only D.C. has a significantly higher gap size. In 4th grade, eleven states* have significantly smaller gaps than we do; in 8th grade, there are seven states**.

“DoDEA,” by the way, refers to the Department of Defense Education Activity schools for servicemembers’ families on base. They’re included here because they post the highest reading scores for black students at both grade levels. (These schools will be getting a post of their own soon.)

Again we see West Virginia claiming a “lowest gap” spot (in 8th grade), and again there are several states with higher scores for black students. That should stand as a reminder that gap size is one component of the equity discussion, but not the whole of it. Absolute performance counts for something, too. (And, again, Minnesotans shouldn’t get too snooty about this; reading scores for black students in West Virginia are higher than they are here.)

Next, we’ll turn to math and reading NAEP scores for Hispanic students, and we’ll close out our tour of the NAEP with a look at income-based gaps. Then it’ll be on to graduation rates. As we’re starting to see, claiming Minnesota has “the biggest” gaps in the country is often an exaggeration, but we do have real equity concerns that should be recognized and addressed.

* Mississippi, Nevada, Washington, Delaware, West Virginia, Alaska, New Mexico, Kentucky, DoDEA, Hawaii, and North Dakota

** Nevada, Delaware, Oklahoma, South Dakota, DoDEA, Hawaii, and West Virginia