WHY DO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STATE-MEASURED ACHIEVEMENT GAPS AND NATIONALLY-MEASURED ACHIEVEMENT GAPS EXIST?
Courtney, Christina Leigh
University of Kansas
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
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This dissertation addresses two research questions: 1. To what degree do states differ in measuring the achievement gap? 2. Are there predictors to suggest why this differential occurs? The first research question requires that the degree of difference, the differential quotient, is determined. For the purposes of this dissertation, I calculated the reported achievement gaps between white and black fourth graders for the years 2005, 2007, and 2009 on the individual state reading and math assessments and the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP, by percentage. For example, if whites scored 90% proficient on the state-developed measure and blacks scored 70%, the state-based achievement gap was recorded as 20. If the white proficiency percentage on the NAEP was reported at 40% and the black percentage was reported at 10%, the NAEP-based achievement gap was recorded as 30. The state-established achievement gap percentage was then subtracted from the NAEP-based achievement gap percentage to create an assessment differential quotient. In the previously explained example, the differential quotient would be 10. These calculations were also completed for the differences between fourth grade white achievement and Hispanic achievement on these assessments. The larger the differential quotient, the further the state assessment achievement gap was from the NAEP achievement gap. The differential quotient was calculated for the reading and math assessments at the fourth grade level creating six individual differential quotients for each state or 300 observations for analysis. The findings of this dissertation evidence that states vary in measuring the achievement gap locally from the national exam (NAEP) at differing degrees. These disparities fluctuate by content, by year, and from state to state. For example, the number of states reporting a positive differential quotient on the white/black achievement gap for the fourth grade reading assessment over the years studied remained relatively stable at an average of 49%. This means that 49% of states reported a smaller achievement gap between whites and blacks in fourth grade reading than was reported by the NAEP. In comparison, the percentage of states reporting a positive differential quotient for the white/black achievement gap on fourth grade math reached 78% in 2009. More state reports differed from the national reports in math than in reading with more states showing growth in math as compared to the NAEP. This dissertation also found that differential quotients increased over the three years studied in all areas except white/black reading. As reporting for No Child Left Behind was not required until 2006, it logically follows that states became more interested in reporting narrowed achievement gaps in 2007 and 2009. States struggled to reach 100% proficiency by the year 2014 and adjustments to test content, format, and procedures were made to construct an illusion of better results at the local level thus causing larger differential quotients. Finally, these findings show that some states such as Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia are consistently found to have the highest disparity between state reports and the national reports. This output leads to the second research question: are there predictors to suggest why this differential occurs more frequently in some states versus others? The answer to this question is yes. The level of black and the level of Hispanic within a state were statistically significant in both math models. The coefficients of these predictors indicate that states with higher black and Hispanic populations show a greater disparity between state-based achievement reports and national-based reports.
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