Black-White Achievement Gap Is Widening

Published December 1, 2003

Although a new report about the education of blacks in the U.S. shows evidence of some progress, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige recently warned there remains much work to do to improve education for all children and to close an achievement gap that has widened over the past two decades.

“[D]espite the work of so many good people, we have a crisis that we can no longer afford to ignore,” said Paige on October 14, addressing the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities in Jackson. “Millions of students are attending school but are not learning. Each student poorly educated is a tragedy.”

According to the report, performance gaps between black and white students ages 13-17 have widened between 1988 and 1999. Gaps in reading achievement showed no evidence of narrowing during the 1990s. When students leave school and enter the workforce, lower performance measures translate into lower pay and higher unemployment rates for equal levels of education.

On the plus side, more blacks have completed high school and gone on to college than in the past, levels of parental education of black children have increased, the number of black individuals and families below the poverty level has decreased, and in 1999, a higher percentage of black and Hispanic children than white children attended public schools chosen by their parents.


For more information …

The September 2003 Report from the National Center for Education Statistics, “Status and Trends in the Education of Blacks,” is available online at the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at