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Department of Education

United States Report on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,
  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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The Department of Education regularly prepares reports on the nation's education system, which helps guide U.S. education policy and how it should address disparities among students of different races, ethnicity and national origin. Most recently, the Department's "Condition of Education and the National Assessment of Educational Progress" (NAEP) reflects progress in narrowing the education gap in the United States and provides insight into how policy might be crafted to address existing disparities in education.

For instance, the 2000 Condition of Education report indicates that long-term NAEP trend data show that the achievement gap between White and Black students has decreased over the past 30 years in reading [note 5]. Despite such gains in the achievement of Black students, the average scores of Black students remain lower than those of Whites at all ages tested. This gap exists when children first enter school. The U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study found that, in fall 1998, White kindergartners more likely than their Black peers to demonstrate proficiency in reading and mathematical skills. Significantly, the rates of high school completion of Blacks have risen more than those of Whites since the early 1970s. This advance substantially closed the gap between the Black and White rates. Unfortunately, the gap between Hispanic and White rates of completion has persisted and remains a continuing challenge.

The rates of college completion for Black and Hispanic high school completers rose between 1971 and 1998. However, because the college completion rate for young White adults increased faster, the gaps in higher education attainment between Whites and Hispanics and Whites and Blacks have actually grown. Furthermore, Whites still enroll in college at higher rates than Blacks and Hispanics.

In mathematics, the latest NAEP report reflects general progress. Overall, students' scores on the NAEP 1996 mathematics assessment increased for all three grades assessed (4, 8, and 12). Scores were higher in 1996 than in 1992 for all three grades. Black and Hispanic students recorded increases in their average mathematics scale scores for grades 4 and 12 over the period 1990 to 1996, although the gaps between scores for these subgroups did not change in 1996.

Students also have demonstrated progress in reading. The NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card indicated increases in average reading scores for grades 4, 8 and 12. At the fourth and twelfth grades, the national average score was higher in 1998 than in 1994. At the eighth grade, the national average score was higher in 1998 than in 1994 and 1992. At grade 4, for Black students, the average reading score was higher in 1998 than in 1994. At grade 8, increases were evident for both White and Black students. At grade 12, increases were evident for both White and Hispanic students.

The Department of Education uses studies like this to craft policy initiatives to address educational disparities in the United States. Some examples include, inter alia, its support and promotion of magnet schools, the elimination of segregation of English language learners, the promotion of equity in testing, the identification of gifted and talented minority students, and initiatives to increase minority enrollment in and graduation from institutions of higher learning.

 

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).