The inclusion of ethnic studies (ES) in high school curricula is a topic of much debate, with one state banning some ES classes and another state’s Governor vetoing a bill that would have mandated them in public schools. Although both critics and supporters of culturally relevant teaching have strong views regarding its impact on students, there was little quantitative research in this area. Until now.
A study out of Stanford University found statistically significant increases in key academic outcomes among at-risk students in ES classes. Data from several student cohorts from 3 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District indicate that those students enrolled in the classes increased school attendance by 21 percent, GPA by 1.4 points and academic credits earned by 23. Male students and Hispanic students showed the largest increase in positive outcomes.
The authors of the study note that while their work offers empirical evidence of the impact of culturally relevant pedagogy on student performance, questions remain on the scalability of the approach and the size of the effect (if any) on students with higher levels of academic achievement. The paper is available for download on the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis webpage.
Citation: Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum (CEPA Working Paper No.16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp16-01
As students ready themselves to return to their classrooms, a report from the RAND Corporation looks past test scores to the issue of Pennsylvania’s student achievement gap – one of the largest in the country. Although data from 2013 Pennsylvania standardized tests ranks the Commonwealth among the top ten states in student performance (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)) RAND found sizable achievement gaps according to race/ethnicity, economic status, parent education, and school district.
Some study findings:
- An achievement gap by race/ethnicity: The proportion of white students achieving proficiency or above in reading and math was 24 to 38 percent larger than African-American and Latino students.
- An achievement gap by economic status: Students from lower economic statuses had lower proficiency scores, and were estimated to be an average of two or three years behind their peers from higher economic statuses.
- An achievement gap by district: After removing the highest and lowest performing school districts, RAND found performance gaps between districts similar those identified in the race/ethnicity and economic analyses. Low performing school districts were identified in both urban and rural areas.
The report, The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools by Lynne Karoly, also compares the achievement of Pennsylvania students both nationally and globally, and examines the impact that gaps in academic performance may have on Pennsylvania’s economy. The full report is available at the RAND website.
Report Citation: Karoly, Lynn A.. The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1159.