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WE USE SURVEYS from four testing programs to investigate achievement gaps and levels over time. These surveys use consistent data-collection procedures to trace the achievement of representative samples of U.S. adolescents over time. They also collect information about the cultural and economic resources of the students' families using student reports of their parents' education and of a wide variety of durable material and educational possessions in the home. Each data set comprises student-level data that we aggregate by demographic group.


The LTT-NAEP dates back to 1971 and assesses students age 9,13, and 17. Data are available for math in select years from 1978-2008 and for reading from 1971-2008. We create a panel of math and reading scores for students age 13 and 17, beginning with the 1954 birth cohort, who turned 17 in 1971. LTT-NAEP is the only source of information for cohorts born between 1954 and 1976. In a typical year, approximately 17,000 students participate.


The Main NAEP started in 1990 and assesses students in grades 4, 8, and 12 every two to four years. We create a panel of math and reading scores for 8th graders from 1990-2013. The Main NAEP is aligned to school curricula and designed to provide results for representative samples of students in the United States as a whole and for each participating state. For each test administration, the Main NAEP 8th-grade sample is over 150,000 observations.


TIMSS, administered by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), is the current version of an international survey that originated as an exploratory study of mathematics conducted across 12 countries in the 1960s. The tests are curriculum-based and developed by an IEA-directed international committee. Beginning with the 1981 birth cohort (tested in 1995), the TIMSS tests have been designed to generate scores that are comparable over time. We use the TIMSS 8th-grade math and science tests beginning with this cohort by compiling national data files from 2003, 2007, and 2011, and international data files from 1995, 1999, and 2015. The only difference between the national and international data is that the latter do not contain an indicator of race or ethnicity. For this reason, our estimates of the black-white achievement gap for TIMSS are only available for 2003, 2007, and 2011. The U.S. TIMSS 8th-grade sample includes roughly 10,000 students for each administration of the test.


PISA, administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, began in 2000 and assesses students' math, reading, and science literacy at age 15 every three years. Its assessments are designed to measure practical applications of knowledge. The United States has participated in every wave of the test, though results are not available for reading for the 1991 birth cohort. We use national PISA data, available every three years from 2000 to 2015. PISA does not collect information on race or ethnicity, so these tests are not used in our analysis of the black-white achievement gap. The U.S. PISA sample includes over 5,000 students for each administration of the test.
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Title Annotation:academic achievement gaps
Publication:Education Next
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 20, 2019
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