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ETS Report: Achievement Gap Will Not Close Without Understanding Both School and Societal Factors

Princeton, NJ (Nov. 20, 2003) -- Efforts to close the achievement gap will fail unless policymakers, educators and parents recognize and address the variety of factors both in school and society causing the gap, officials of ETS warned in a new report today.

In Parsing the Achievement Gap: Baselines for Tracking Progress, ETS’s Policy Information Center identifies the factors before, during and after school that create and perpetuate the well-documented gaps in achievement among students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and different family income levels.

The ETS report specifies 14 factors related to student achievement ranging from birth weight and hunger to lead poisoning, parental involvement, and teacher quality. More importantly, the report looks at the negative impact for different racial/ethnic and income groups experiencing these factors that impact learning.

"The results are unambiguous. In all 14 correlates of achievement, there were gaps between the minority and majority student populations," writes Paul Barton, author of the report. "Eleven of those also showed clear gaps between students from low-income families and higher income families. The gaps in student achievement mirror inequalities in those aspects of school, early life, and home circumstances that research has linked to achievement."

"This research shows that the achievement gap is not only about what goes on once kids get into the classroom; it's also about what happens to them before and after school," said Sharon Robinson, President of ETS’s Educational Policy Leadership Institute. "Identifying and tracking these factors is the first step. This allows us to focus our political will and our energy on areas where we can make a real difference in the lives of our children. Most importantly, this report serves as a reminder that each of us—parents, teachers and policymakers—has a crucial role to play to make sure that every child becomes a high achiever."

"The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act demonstrates a national commitment to closing the achievement gap," says Drew Gitomer, ETS’s Senior Vice President of Research & Development. "Given the fact that the President and Congress have united to focus their attention on addressing the achievement gap, the question becomes, 'the political will to do what, specifically?'"

The report assembles those core factors into three major categories, shown in the table below:

Early Development
weight at birth
lead poisoning
hunger and nutrition

The School Environment
rigor of the school curriculum
teacher preparation
teacher experience and attendance
class size
availability of appropriate classroom technology
school safety

Home Learning Environment
reading to young children
TV watching
parent availability and support
student mobility
parent participation

In every instance, the ETS report found minority students disadvantaged relative to White students in the conditions and experiences conducive to student achievement.

"We must reject false choices—improving education is neither about a single, simple solution nor is it so complex that it is unsolvable," Robinson added. "On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we can point to progress made and work to be done. We have the tools and information at our disposal to help each and every child reach his or her full potential."

Download "Parsing the Achievement Gap" for free at www.ets.org/research/pic. Purchase copies for $15.00 (prepaid) by writing to the Policy Information Center, Educational Testing Service, MS 19-R, Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08541-0001, by calling 609-734-5694, or by sending e-mail to pic@ets.org.


About the ETS Policy Information Center
The ETS Policy Information Center identifies the education issues that are most challenging to educators and policymakers and presents data and information that enhance understanding and engender ideas for improvement. The Center’s scope covers education issues ranging from pre-school through adulthood. Topics usually concentrate on education quality and focus on individual, group, and institutional performance and participation in education.

About ETS
Founded in 1947, ETS is the world’s largest private, nonprofit educational testing and measurement organization and a leader in education research. ETS products and services measure knowledge and skills, promote learning and performance, and support education and professional development. ETS employs 2,800 professionals who produce and administer 12 million tests annually. ETS is dedicated to serving the needs of individuals, educational institutions, and government bodies around the world.

— Educational Testing Service
ETS Report: Achievement Gap Will Not Close Without Understanding Both School and Societal Factors
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