A new study from researchers at Stanford University offers some perspective on the debate over the achievement gap in Evanston schools.

The study, as reported in the New York Times, shows that socioeconomic status plays a huge role in predicting student success, but it also depicts the large disparities in performance nationwide when students are grouped into racial categories.


The report was published just a few days after a marathon District 65 school board meeting on the achievement gap, 

One chart (shown above) displaying data from the report shows District 65 students as a whole performing far better than the average for school districts nationwide — with students on average 1.6 years ahead of their grade level.

But another chart shows that while white students in Evanston score on average 3.9 grades ahead of the national average for all students — the highest performance reported for whites in any district in the study, Hispanic students score 0.1 grades below the nationwide all-student average and black students are 0.6 grade levels behind.

Similar large disparities occur in some other college towns. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, white students are 3.5 grades ahead, Hispanics 0.1 grades behind and black students 0.8 grades behind. And in Berkeley, California, whites are  2.7 grades ahead, Hispanics 1.1 grades behind and blacks 1.9 grades behind. 

The chart shows that, in the bulk of districts, white students come, on average, from considerably more well to do families than minority students.

But it can also, in the interactive version on the New York Times site, be used to identify at least one district, Woodridge Township, New Jersey, where minority students from families whose wealth on average matches the wealth of minority students in Evanston are performing better than minority students do here (white +1.8, Hispanic +0.6, black +0.5).

It also identifies at least one other district, in Frisco, Texas, where, perhaps as a result of higher income levels, minority students are doing even better (white +2.2, Hispanic +1.1, black +0.7).

Related story

Gap meet: Many complaints, few solutions (4/26/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Digging into the data

    The page which this article links to where you can download the study also contains a link to the Standford Education Data Archive, which is the basis for the study.  One can download their data if they provide an email address and agree to their terms of use, so I did just that to look into it further.

    While it is true that Evanston has a higher than average white-black achievement gap, it is also true that Evanston has a higher than average white-black socio-economic status(SES) gap.  SES is a combination of income, education, and other factors.  Since SES is such a strong predictor of educational acheivement, we should expect the education gap to be larger in Evanston.

    I do not mean to imply that the gap is acceptable, but it is useful to understand what drives it.  IMO the most effective way for the district to close the racial gap would be to provide services to help students who do not necessarily have resources at home.  ETHS does this with AM support, free Saturday tutoring, and free in-school tutoring.  These services are available to every student there.

  2. Info into Achievement Gap
    Thank you for posting this article. I would encourage everyone who is interested in educational issues to read the article. It contains interesting and important information that hopefully our school boards and administrations will read and consider when they are developing educational policies and strategies that can help all students succeed. There are many factors that impact educational outcomes and while we should understand and consider how race impacts our students we also have to figure out how income, single parent households, dual working families who have multiple jobs, family stress, homelessness, mental health etc impact our students and provide supports that address the underlying challenges confronting each and every student.


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