Abstract

In previous research, a substantial gap in test scores between white and black students persists, even after controlling for a wide range of observable characteristics. Using a newly available data set (the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study), we demonstrate that in stark contrast to earlier studies, the black-white test score gap among incoming kindergartners disappears when we control for a small number of covariates. Real gains by black children in recent cohorts appear to play an important role in explaining the differences between our findings and earlier research. The availability of better covariates also contributes. Over the first two years of school, however, blacks lose substantial ground relative to other races. There is suggestive evidence that differences in school quality may be an important part of the explanation. None of the other hypotheses we test to explain why blacks are losing ground receive any empirical backing.

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