Important recent work by Reardon and his collaborators shows that not only test scores but also racial test score gaps vary dramatically across American school districts. In this latter paper, Reardon and coauthors report that while racial/ethnic test score gaps average around 0.6 standard deviations across all school districts, in some districts the gaps are almost nonexistent while in others they exceed 1.2 standard deviations.
The researchers, including Richard Murnane of Harvard and Sean Reardon of Stanford, studied private school enrollment trends between 1968 and 2013. They estimate the proportion of students enrolled… at the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentiles of the income distribution, which they refer to as low-, middle-, and high-income.
For the past half century, roughly one in 10 U.S. families has chosen to enroll their children in private school. The reasons behind these decisions are as individual as families themselves: some may perceive the quality of education to be better at a private school than their neighborhood school, some may wish to continue a family tradition or be motivated by religious beliefs, and others may seek specialized programs for a child with a particular interest or learning challenge.
“We set out saying that some districts are going to have more stereotypical gender achievement gaps—larger math gaps favoring boys, larger reading gaps favoring girls—and others that are maybe less stereotypical,” said Erin Fahle, who co-authored the study and earns her Ph.D. in education policy from Stanford this month. “Instead what we found was that districts tend to advantage boys or advantage girls.”
A review of test scores from 10,000 school district finds that gender gaps in math and English vary with community wealth and racial diversity.
When Stanford Professor Sean Reardon and his research team set out to take an unprecedented look at how elementary school girls and boys compare in academic achievement, they expected to find similar stereotype-driven patterns across all 10,000 U.S. school districts: boys consistently outperforming girls in math and girls steadily surpassing boys in reading and writing by a wide margin.
“It could be about some set of expectations, it could be messages kids get early on or it could be how they’re treated in school,” said Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford, who conducted the study with Erin Fahle, a doctoral candidate in education policy there, and colleagues. “Something operates to help boys more than girls in some places and help girls more than boys in other places.”
Chicago Public Schools, one of the largest school systems in the country, is reporting academic improvement in spite of past troubles. Now city leaders are looking to new CEO Janice Jackson to keep things moving forward.
Sean Reardon: "The growth rate from third to eighth grade in Chicago is the fastest among the 100 large districts in the United States. It is number one."
“The evidence that how male and female students are tested changes the perception of their relative ability in both math and ELA suggests that we must be concerned with questions of test fairness and validity,” says Sean Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford Graduate School of Education and a senior fellow at Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
Measured achievement gaps between male and female students on state accountability tests are larger (more male-favoring) on tests with more multiple-choice questions and fewer constructed-response (i.e., open-ended) questions. Gaps are more female-favoring on tests with fewer multiple-choice questions and more constructed-response questions. Differences in the question format among states’ tests explain approximately 25 percent of the variation in achievement gaps across states and districts.
Sean Reardon of Stanford compared changes in national test scores between third and eighth grade. He found that Chicago students were improving faster than students in any other major school district in the country. Chicago schools are cramming six years’ worth of education into five years of actual schooling.