Gap widest for african-american high achievers

Education Week reports that “new research into the black-white achievement gap suggests that the students who lose the most ground academically in U.S. public schools may be the brightest African-American children.”

As black students move through elementary and middle school, these studies show, the test-score gaps that separate them from their better-performing white counterparts grow fastest among the most able students and the most slowly for those who start out with below-average academic skills.

The reasons, says Ed Week, are still unclear. Among the possible explanations are negative peer pressure (‘don’t act smart’), the disproportionate number of African-American students in schools with inexperienced teachers, and a tendency in such schools to aim instruction at the “average level,” offering fewer “cognitively stimulating opportunities.”

Said a Harvard researcher commenting on the studies: ““We care about achievement gaps because of their implications for labor-market and socioeconomic-status issues down the line. It’s disconcerting if the gap is growing particularly high among high-achieving black and white students.”

Be sure to read the comments that follow the Ed Week story, for additional insights and pushback.