Are test score gaps growing? A simple question remains a research mystery

November 19, 2020

Some of the country’s leading education experts recently gathered virtually to discuss a simple but weighty question: Are the gaps in test scores between children from low-income and wealthy families closing?

Then something puzzling happened.


This debate kicked off nearly a decade ago with a study by Sean Reardon, a prominent Stanford education researcher. Using data from a number of different tests, he compared students born in the early 2000s to those born decades earlier. His conclusion was bleak: the difference between students from the highest- and lowest-income families had jumped 30 to 40 percent.