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"The Education Trust,"

by Kati Haycock March/April 2001 issue of Poverty & Race

The Education Trust works to advance the academic achievement of students at all levels, kindergarten through college. Our primary focus is on improving the achievement and educational attainment of low-income and minority students, who are most often underserved by our schools, and closing the devastating achievement gap between those students and their more affluent peers. Our basic tenet is this: All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

At the center of our efforts is the conviction that the clear-eyed examination of hard data is essential for measuring the achievement gap, determining the factors that cause it and illuminating the policies and practices that can cure it. Data are also important for convincing the public and policymakers that there is a problem and that it can be solved. Over its short history, Ed Trust staff members have made data-driven presentations to hundreds of thousands of people, from students to teachers to policymakers. Over the past year, we have been working to harness the World Wide Web as tool to reach even more people with hard numbers and research on closing the achievement gap.

Last October, The Education Trust unveiled its new World Wide Web site, which can be accessed at The site includes detailed descriptions of Ed Trust projects, forms for ordering products and publications online, and the option of directly downloading several important Ed Trust data products and reports.

The following can be downloaded directly:

• Achievement in America 2000. This slide show, available in Microsoft PowerPoint format, is the core presentation given to over 1,000 audiences over the past few years. Our recently updated version weaves the best available data and research into a story line about the intersection of poverty, race and academic achievement in the United States. It provides a primer on the nation’s achievement gap, makes a persuasive argument that the gap can be closed and tells the audience exactly how. This national “data show” can also serve as a template for advocates to make the same case in their own communities using state and local data.

The story is told in four related sections:

Part I: How Many Students Make It Through? While seven out of ten high school graduates pursue some form of higher education, low-income, African-American and Latino students graduate from high school at lower rates and are less likely to enroll in college. Those who do too often find they are inadequately prepared; by age 24, individuals from more affluent families are seven times more likely to have earned a Bachelor’s degree than their peers from low-income families.

Part II: What Do We Know About Student Achievement? Between 1970 and 1988, the achievement gap between racial and ethnic groups narrowed substantially. Since then, it has remained the same in some subjects and widened in others. Seventeen-year-old African-American and Latino students have math and reading skills that nearly perfectly mirror the skills of thirteen-year-old white students.

Part III: Why Do These Gaps Exist? Educators and policymakers are often all too ready to blame the students, their families or “their demographics” for these gaps. The data suggest otherwise. Low-income and minority students are less likely to be enrolled in a rigorous curriculum, more likely receive lower-level instruction from less-prepared teachers and less likely to have high academic achievement expected of them.

Part IV: Low-Income and Minority Students Can Meet High Academic Standards. Scores of individual schools and districts prove that the historic relationship between race, poverty and achievement can be overturned. The keys are a rigorous, college-prep curriculum, competent and qualified teachers, and high academic standards for all students.

“Achievement in America 2000” will soon be joined by two more data-rich PowerPoint presentations that focus in on important facets of the achievement gap – “Good Teaching Matters” and “High School in America.”

• Thinking K-16. Published periodically by The Education Trust, this series of reports examines critical educational issues in depth and presents them in language that is clear and accessible for general readers as well as for educators. Each issue of Thinking K-16 cuts through rhetoric to get at the impact on students and concludes with practical recommendations for action.

The following issues are available online:

Good Teaching Matters: How Well-Qualified Teachers Can Close the Gap (Summer 1998). This report synthesizes recent research demonstrating that teachers are the single most significant factor in student achievement. It includes exclusive state-by-state data showing that poor and minority students are often more likely be taught by “out-of-field” teachers who lack degrees in their subjects.

Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations (Spring 1999). In this issue, co-authors Ruth Mitchell and Patte Barth present the findings of an Ed Trust-sponsored analysis of subject-area examinations used for licensing teachers. The study revealed that licensing tests fall far short of guaranteeing that teachers have the content knowledge of a college graduate.

Ticket to Nowhere: The Gap Between Leaving High School and Entering College and High-Performance Jobs (Fall 1999). What high school requires and colleges expect are often two different things. This report examines the “expectations gap” and argues that all students, regardless of background, should have access to a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum.

Honor in the Boxcar: Equalizing Teacher Quality (Spring 2000). Regardless of how “qualified” teachers are measured – whether by certification, major in field or academic performance – poor and minority students get far less than their fair share. In this publication, the leaders of 14 national organizations share their ideas and recommendations for providing our best teachers to the children who need them most.

• Dispelling the Myth National Database. In an effort to update its popular 1998 Dispelling the Myth report, The Education Trust is working with state officials to collect information on each state’s high-performing or rapidly-improving high-poverty and high-minority schools.

Information on those schools will be available online through a Web interface that allows users to search for such schools according to their own parameters: nationwide or in a single state, student poverty level, minority enrollment, performance on tests in various academic subjects, and grade level. For example, a researcher in Boston will be able to search for all high schools in Massachusetts that score in the top 10% of high schools on statewide math exams and where 80% of students are low-income. We hope the database helps the media better report on such schools, researchers better study them, and educators better emulate them.

Education Watch Online. Our most ambitious new project is the next generation of the Ed Trust’s popular Education Watch series, the most exhaustive state-by-state data resource on achievement, attainment and opportunity gaps currently available.

Over the next few months, The Education Trust will enhance its Web site even further by adding interactive, updated versions of two of the Trust’s most important ongoing projects: Education Watch and Dispelling the Myth.

Working with Synchronous Knowledge, a pioneer in statistical analysis of institutional performance, Ed Trust has developed an interactive Web site capable of generating thousands of charts and tables for exploring dissaggregated education data in sophisticated and illuminating ways. By making selections in easy-to-use dropdown menus, users will be able to quickly generate answers to many questions about educational performance across the nation and the states on a variety of indicators, including academic performance and achievement gaps; course-taking and curricula; high school and college graduation; teacher qualifications; effective teaching strategies; and financial investment in education.

While making it much easier to compare both overall performance and gaps across the states, we have oriented the site to draw attention to the “frontier,” those states that have the smallest achievement gaps between groups or the highest performance among similar populations of students. For example, African-American 4th graders in California score 35 points lower in mathematics than California’s white 4th graders and 24 points lower than African-American 4th graders in Texas, the state where such students score the highest. By shining a spotlight on higher-performing groups and lower gaps in some states, Education Watch Online will provide compelling evidence that closing the achievement gap is not impossible.

Kati Haycock Kati Haycock is Director of The Education Trust (1725 K St. NW, #200, Wash., DC 20006, 202/293-1217, E-mail: Vice Chair of PRRAC’s Board of Directors.

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