A team of current and former Stanford University researchers studied whether racial and ethnic segregation at school still matters today by looking at 350 million test scores across nearly every school in the United States from the 2008-09 school year to the 2015-16 school year. The study looked at student test performance in math and English language arts between the 3rd and 8th grade.
The draft study, “Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps,” was led by Sean Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist.
The study finds that achievement gaps among black, Hispanic and white students, are “completely accounted for” by the poverty level of students in a school, as measured by the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced priced meals. “While racial segregation is important, it’s not the race of one’s classmates that matters,” the researchers concluded in the study. “It’s the fact that in America today, racial segregation brings with it very unequal concentrations of students in high and low poverty schools.” “Differences in exposure to poverty may be more important for the development of achievement gaps than differences in exposure to minority students,” they state.
The test score results reflect what the researchers broadly refer to as “educational opportunities,” which include not only what students are taught in school, but learning opportunities in their homes and in neighborhoods, their access to child care, preschool, and after-school programs and a range of other resources typically available to higher income children.