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Performance Gap Between White, Hispanic Students Remains Large

The gap among eighth grade students has barely narrowed since 2003.

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Standardized test scores in national math and reading tests for both Hispanic and white students rose between 2003 and 2009, but a wide achievement gap still exists between the two groups, according to a new report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

In 2009, white eighth graders scored, on average, 26 points better than Hispanic students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics test, and 24 points better on the NAEP reading test. The tests are given every two years to assess national progress in those subjects.

[Learn about the performance gap widening that occurs during summer vacation.]

Hispanic students who are native English speakers scored 34 points better than English-language learning Hispanic students on the math exam, and 39 points better on the reading exam.

In math, the gap has narrowed slightly for eighth graders between 2003 and 2009: In 2003, white students scored an average of 28 points better than Hispanic students. White students' scores rose 1.7 percent from an average of 287 in 2003 to 292 in 2009. Meanwhile, Hispanic student scores rose 3.1 percent from an average of 258 in 2003 to 266 in 2009.

In reading, the gap decreased from 27 points in 2003 to 24 points in 2009. White students' scores rose just one point during that time period, from an average of 270 to 271. Hispanic students' scores rose from an average of 244 to 248 over the same time frame.

The NAEP math and reading tests are only given to fourth and eighth graders, but NAEP tests in other subjects show a similar gap among high school seniors. And on the 2010 civics test, white students scored 19 points higher than Hispanic students, and on the 2010 NAEP history exam, white high school seniors scored 20 points higher than Hispanic students.

[Read about the improving high school graduation rate.]

Hispanic students' scholastic achievement has been a hot-button issue for the Obama administration; in late April, the administration released a report outlining a series of steps to improve educational achievement among Hispanics. The report suggests improving pre-K and early childhood education, and advocates increasing funding for several pre-K programs. The administration's Promise Neighborhoods initiative will pump $30 million into community organizations such as United Way and Boys & Girls Clubs of America in high-poverty areas, especially those with Latino-majority populations.

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