What’s Race Got to do with Test Scores?

A new batch of Minnesota test scores were released this week. Overall it sounds like good news with 75% passing the new test. But it gets interesting as the media starts talking about the various demographics (PDF). I was listening to NPR and they started talking about the various numbers, pointing out that 82% of white students passed, while every other ethnic group saw lower numbers (Black: 41%, Hispanic: 48%, Asian: 63%, American Indian: 55%).

What does race have to do with test scores? The gap between whites and other races is startling. My initial thought was that race has nothing to do with the results, that it’s more likely socio-economic factors. Meaning if you’re black and failed the test, you weren’t more likely to fail because you were black, but because blacks are more likely to be socio-economically disadvantaged, i.e., live in poor areas and attend poor schools. It’s generational poverty. But as I’m looking into it, it seems the black-white test score gap exists regardless of socio-economic factors.

Which is kind of disturbing. What’s causing that gap? Is it institutional racism? Is it more overt racism? I don’t know. My quick Google search and 20 minutes of reading is hardly enough to even begin making me look stupid, never mind coming close to any answers.

6 thoughts on “What’s Race Got to do with Test Scores?”

  1. Josh, What do you mean by cultural differences? Are you referring to students whose first language is not English? I’m assuming so.

    And, all those kids are tested in the same manner (in English, regardless of their level of ability to read, write or speak English) and as far as I know lumped in with students of the same skin color – i.e. East African immigrants fall under the category of black students. And if you take out all the students who are not fluent English speakers my guess is all the minority categories would have more students who pass the test.

  2. I’m not sure if that’s what Josh was getting at, but Abby is right, when you take out the ESL students, the minority groups did much better. They talked about that on NPR, but they didn’t give specific numbers (if that makes such a difference, it seems odd that they don’t note that more often).

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