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Harming the best: How schools affect the black-white achievement gap

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  • Eric A. Hanushek

    (Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution of Stanford University and Chair of the Executive Committee, Texas Schools Project, University of Texas, Dallas)

  • Steven G. Rivkin

    (Professor of Economics, Amherst College and Director of Research, Texas Schools Project, University of Texas, Dallas)

Abstract

Sizeable achievement differences by race appear in early grades, but substantial uncertainty exists about the impact of school quality on the black-white achievement gap and particularly about its evolution across different parts of the achievement distribution. Texas administrative data show that the overall growth in the achievement gap between third and eighth grades is larger for students with higher initial achievement and that specific teacher and peer characteristics explain a substantial share of the widening. The adverse effect of attending school with a high black enrollment share appears to be an important contributor to the larger growth in the achievement differential in the upper part of the test score distribution. This evidence reaffirms the major role played by peers and school quality, but also presents a policy dilemma. Teacher labor market complications, current housing patterns, legal limits to desegregation efforts, and uncertainty about the overall effects of specific desegregation programs indicate that effective policy responses will almost certainly involve a set of school improvements beyond simple changes in peer racial composition and the teacher experience distribution. © 2009 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric A. Hanushek & Steven G. Rivkin, 2009. "Harming the best: How schools affect the black-white achievement gap," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(3), pages 366-393.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:28:y:2009:i:3:p:366-393
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.20437
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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