What’s a century, really? The size of the achievement gap

January 7, 2011 at 11:15 am Leave a comment

One of the most common rebuttals that I hear to the efforts of NCWIT and the NSF BPC (Broadening Participation in Computing) program is, “So what if women and minorities don’t want to go into CS?  That’s just their choice, isn’t it?”  Jane Margolis and colleagues responded well to that critique with their Stuck in the Shallow End book that showed how minorities are prevented (by infrastructure, by school schedules, by choices made for bad reasons) from pursuing computing as a career, and accordingly, prevented from getting to the economic rewards of that end of the salary pool — they are stuck “in the shallow end.”

“So, what?” I often hear in response.  “Maybe there’s a few women and minorities that are prevented from going into computing. Aren’t efforts like BPC and NCWIT working?  Aren’t things getting better?”  Just how big is the gap between the majority and the minority in terms of achievement and participation in STEM fields, where the economic rewards are greatest?  A new report just did the achievement analysis, on a state-by-state level.  At current rates, we should be at par in a mere century in some states.  The actual report is here.

For the first time, this report put a date on how long it would take for various achievement gaps to close if trends continue at their current rates (a scenario the report acknowledges is unlikely, because the pace of progress tends to slow as gaps close).

In a state like Florida, which is making comparatively good headway on closing gaps, it would take 28 years to close the African-American/white achievement gap for fourth-grade reading. In Washington State, closing that gap would take 105 years.

via Persistent achievement gap vexes education reformers: Six takeaways – Progress on achievement gaps sluggish – CSMonitor.com.

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