7 eye-opening findings from an achievement gap map

Per-student spending did not correlate closely with either achievement outcomes or gaps, interactive map shows
By: | February 23, 2021
(Source: National Center for Education Statistics/American Enterprise Institute)

A new interactive map plots state-level data on lower-income and higher-income eighth graders who scored below NAEP Basic on the 2019 reading and math assessments known as the Nation’s Report Card.

The map (see above), created by Katharine B. Stevens, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, also shows achievement gaps between those two groups and per-student spending.

Stevens found that per-student spending in 2017 ranges from $7,748 to $20,590 (in 2019 dollars, adjusted for state cost of living) and did not correlate closely with either achievement outcomes or gaps.


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Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the goal is to help state policymakers and the public gauge the performance of their state’s school system, Stevens says.

Users can click tabs of the interactive map to examine reading scores, math scores, the gaps in both subjects, and spending levels.

The map reveals, for example:

  • Large proportions of lower-income children across all states are failing to perform at even basic levels in reading and mathematics.
  • Wide achievement gaps between lower-income children and their higher-income peers are evident in every state.
  • The percentages of lower-income eighth graders who scored below NAEP Basic in 2019 range from 33% to 52% in reading and from 36% to 59% in math.
  • Achievement gaps in reading and math range from 14 to 37 percentage points.
  • The widest reading gaps (26 to 33 points) occurred in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington
  • The widest math gaps (31 to 37 points) occurred in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and South Carolina

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