K-12 Performance Gaps: More Bad News


Despite nationwide improvement, race and wealth correlated achievement gaps continue to widen in SC public schools.

In April, South Carolina’s Education Oversight Committee (EOC) quietly released a report identifying a dramatic growth in the academic performance gap between black and white children attending our public schools. It also pointed to a growing achievement gap between low-income students and their middle class peers.

Now, two additional reports have a similar message: The state of public education is worsening in South Carolina, especially for low income and minority students

The Center on Education Policy (CEP) released a report in late June investigating whether the use of NCLB and other accountability tools correlated with student improvement. The authors concluded that in most states, math and reading scores are up since 2002, but they are uncertain if the new law deserves all the credit. The found that nationwide gaps between black and white students had diminished, but that in South Carolina performance gaps between white students and African-American students actually widened, most notably in 4th and 8th grade math. Similarly, performance gaps between low-income and other students grew in both math and reading.

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) also found that South Carolina is failing to improve. Their annual Challenge to Lead Goals Report of public school indicators in 16 states identified a growth in the already staggering performance gap between racial/ethnic groups in South Carolina. This despite a total reduction of the gap in the region. Among their conclusions: In South Carolina “the average composite SAT score increased more for white students than for black students from 1997 to 2007.” Economically-correlated gaps are growing too. SREB found that: SC fourth graders from low-income families widened gaps with peers in reading.

These gaps are NOT the result of improvement at the “best” public schools or by the wealthiest students. SREB went on to identify all South Carolina’s students as trailing both regional and national peers in reading, SAT scores, SAT participation, AP scores, AP participation, and average graduation rate. This despite the fact that “SC’s funding for K-12 students outpaced enrollment and inflation from 2000 to 2005.”

In fact, it has been shown that middle class and wealthy suburban public schools are the furtherest behind their national and regional socio-economc peers. This despite the national trend, identified by Fordham and Brookings scholars, of greater recent gains for low-income and minority students in most states. Only in South Carolina, where public school failure is so widespread, has both the gap widened and total average performance dropped.

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3 responses to “K-12 Performance Gaps: More Bad News

  1. Riichard Lahan

    I taught 8th grade for a short time in a school district in South Carolina and during that time I noticed several problems. First, there is no accountability for student performance. I agree that teachers should be accountable for their performance in the classroom, but students (especially older ones in middle and high school) need to realize that they will get out of school what they put into it. Secondly, teaching students only what is going to appear on a standardized test in the spring is depriving them of a well-rounded educational experience. Thirdly, I know that most administrators honestly care about kids and providing a quality educational experience for them. Others, however, are most concerned about protecting their job and retirement and ignore real problems in their schools (drugs and gangs) so their school is not declared a dangerous school under No Child Left Behind. This would enable parents to pull their children out of that school and enroll them somewhere else, depriving the school of Title 9 money. These are just a few of the problems I noticed while teaching.

  2. The PACT is finally gone, but I worry that they will just bring in another test just as bad, and then wait 20 years before they replace that one too. In the mean time blacks in poor areas are going to fall farther behind. Although I guess this article points out that our schools in wealthier areas aren’t everything we thought.

  3. CogitoCircle

    this is the liberal dream of “progress” come true – dumb down the wealthy schools kids so their scores are closer to the poor one

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