Gap Widens for AI/AN Students, Says Nation’s Report Card

Tanya H. Lee
11/14/13

Changes in academic achievement for American Indian/Alaska Native students between 2011 and 2013 were unremarkable, according to the Nation’s Report Card released by the U.S. Department of Education November 7. The report looks at fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading and math.

Overall, 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in four-grade math and eighth-grade reading and math are up slightly compared with 2011 scores, continuing a 23-year upward trend. The score for fourth-grade reading was unchanged.

The scores for AI/AN students in fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade math are up (3 points for fourth-grade reading, 2 points for fourth-grade math and 4 points for eighth-grade math), but scores for eighth-grade reading are down slightly (1 point), the only racial/ethnic group for which this is true.

In eighth-grade reading, the gap between the scores of white and AI/AN students increased 3 points between 2011 and 2013, while the gap decreased by 3 points in mathematics at the eighth-grade level.

In both fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade math, the gap between white and AI/AN students’ scores decreased, but only by 1 point, over the same time period.

The gap between white and AI/AN scores in 2013 is markedly larger than it was in 1994 (fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading) and 1996 (fourth-grade mathematics), the first years for which these numbers are reported. The gap in eighth-grade math remained unchanged between 2000 (the first year in which it is reported) and 2013.

This result bucks the trend seen in comparing whites and other ethnic groups, where the gap in white and black student scores and white and Hispanic student scores has been decreasing since the 1990s. For the Asian/Pacific Islander group, the gap has been increasing, but the difference is that the Asian/Pacific Islander group now has higher scores than whites, therefore an increase in the gap means that the former group is doing even better than whites in 2013 than it was in the early- to mid-2000s when Asian/Pacific Island students first started scoring higher than white students.

The gap between students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches and those not eligible increased only very slightly or stayed the same between 2011 and 2013. That gap has stayed remarkably steady in the mid- to upper-20s (depending on grade and subject) since it was first calculated in 2002-2003.

An important point here is that while AI/AN scores increased slightly (though not mathematically significantly) between 2011 and 2013 (except in fourth-grade reading), so did everyone else’s scores. So the increase in the gap between white and AI/AN student scores in eighth-grade reading and the very slight decrease in the gaps in fourth-grade reading and math are worrisome, as is the increased gap between white and black students on all four measures between 2011 and 2013.

The difference is that the gap for blacks has been decreasing (albeit very slowly) since the early 1990s, while the gap for AI/AN students has increased steadily and markedly since the mid-1990s for fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade reading. This lack of progress is perhaps yet another indication that No Child Left Behind has not served AI/AN students well. Whether the new Common Core Standards being implemented in 45 states beginning this school year will be more helpful remains to be seen.

In 2013, NAEP was administered to samples of more than 376,000 fourth-graders and 341,000 eighth-graders in public and private schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools, according to the Institute of Education Statistics’ National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the test. The test is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

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