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The District of Columbia Produces the Largest Minority Reading and Math Proficiency Gaps in the Nation

First Posted: Mar 22, 2015 03:50 PM EDT
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The District of Columbia produces the largest reading and math proficiency gaps in the nation, in regards to white fourth graders and their non-white Hispanic and black counterparts, while the opposite is true of states like Louisiana.

The Hispanic-white gap is narrower than the black-white gap, but disparities persist for Latinos. Among U.S. Latinos students, advancements in reading can be attributed to increased English language proficiency among ESL students.

The Hispanic-white gap has improved in grades four and eight in 32 out of 47 states, according to a recently published report. Nonetheless, reading proficiency gaps persist in areas such as the District of Columbia, where 22.8 percent of Hispanic fourth-grade students versus 76.6 percent of white students are reading proficient.

Math proficiency gaps also continue to exist in the District of Columbia, where only 14.7 percent of African-American fourth graders, 23.3 percent of Hispanic fourth graders and 87.7 percent of white fourth graders are reading proficient. In Kentucky, the Hispanic-white reading proficiency gaps are narrower, where 29.4 percent of Hispanics and 39.2 percent of whites proved to be proficient in reading.

When it comes to math proficiency, the Hispanic-white gap improved in just 13 of 47 states, compare that to only nine of 45 states for the black-white math proficiency gap. Louisiana presents the narrowest math proficiency gap among fourth graders, with 28.9 percent of Hispanics versus 40 percent of white students testing at or above proficient in math. At the same time, the District of Columbia shows 23.3 percent of Hispanics and 87.7 percent of whites tested at or above proficient in math. 

"State of Black America," an annual report published by the National Urban League, documents leadership around U.S. racial equality, education, health, social justice, civic engagement and economics (including employment, income and housing). The report also offers insight analysis on thought leaders in politics, popular culture, academia and the corporations. But, at its core, the document is about economic empowerment.

The median household incomes of Latinos are closest to whites in areas in Florida, such as Deltona, where Hispanic household make 97 cent for each dollar. And the widest gaps exist in Hartford, Connecticut, where there's a difference of 40 cents. The lowest Hispanic median household income is in Springfield, Massachusetts, ($24,781) and the highest is in Washington, D.C. ($65,736). Nationally, unemployment and income disparities between Latinos and whites have narrowed more than it has between black and whites during economic recovery, but there are pronounced Latino unemployment rates in some areas.

The report suggests that targeted interventions must be made, because students who struggle with math and reading in the fourth grade will likely continue to struggle as they age. This is relative to the lowered high school graduation rate among Latinos and blacks.

Consistent with the findings present about the widest Hispanic-white immigration gaps, the largest Hispanic-white immigration gap is in the District of Columbia. Just 58.5 percent of Hispanics freshmen graduate compared to 87.8 percent of whites. The smallest gap exists in Maine, where 96.1 percent of Hispanic freshmen graduate, compared to 84.4 percent of whites. Higher graduation rates also exist in Louisiana, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Arkansas.

The smallest gaps tend to exist in states where the non-white population is small and where the test scores are also fairly low for the white student population. And the larger gaps are generally present in large urban areas with large non-white populations living in segregated areas with excessive rates of concentrated high poverty.

The racial, educational and economic segregation persist decades after Brown v. Board of education; and half of all Blacks and Latinos live in poverty and attend high poverty schools, where they're less likely to make progress and they're more likely to fail, experience unemployment and income inequality. According to the report, correcting this is a matter of providing high quality early childhood education, integrating neighborhoods and full-time career opportunities, which would reduce the socio-economic barriers for children of color, and it would bring forth proficiency, excellence and equity for all students.

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