Demography is not destiny

“Demography is not destiny” is one lesson from a report issued by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute,  which recently looked at schools in Massachusetts.

Here’s part of a press release announcing the report:

A new report released today by Pioneer Institute finds that some school districts are substantially more successful in reducing African-American and Hispanic student achievement gaps than other districts serving students with similar backgrounds. Using U.S. Census data and controlling for family poverty and community education levels, Beyond Demographic Destiny: An Analysis of Massachusetts Minority and White Student Achievement Gaps demonstrates that students’ demographic characteristics are not determinative even within Massachusetts district schools systems.

A year ago, the Patrick Administration established a Board of Elementary and Secondary (BESE) Task Force on proficiency gaps. Pioneer believes there needs to be great urgency on how the administration will address the nearly 100,000 poor and minority students who are not acquiring the academic knowledge they need to succeed in the world.

Beyond Demographic Destiny — authored by Dr. Richard Cross, Theodor Rebarber and Dr. Kathleen Madigan of AccountabilityWorks in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Bruce Bean of Community Partners Initiative in Lawrence, Massachusetts — is the second in a two-part series on student proficiency gaps in the Commonwealth. It follows Pioneer’s “micro” level report last fall entitled Closing Springfield’s Achievement Gap: Innovative Ways to Use MCAS Data to Drive School Reform.

“With school accountability all but suspended and not one in-district school actually ‘turned around’ over the past few years, we’ve missed a real sense of urgency in closing proficiency gaps,” said James Stergios, Executive Director of Pioneer Institute. “Diagnosing which districts are and are not closing the gaps will, we hope, enabled the Task Force to finally move forward.”

Beyond Demographic Destiny focuses on and analyzes the achievement gaps for African-American, Hispanic and White students in selected Massachusetts school districts, examining the gaps in English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics achievement on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) between each student group and state White students. It highlights clear differences in how school districts do in addressing academic achievement gaps between poor, minority, and white students; and the unacceptably large achievement gaps persist among historically under-achieving minority groups.

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