The largest achievement gap in Mississippi exists between black and white students in the state, according to data released earlier this month by the state Department of Education. But significant gaps also exist between other student groups, such as those who are and are not economically disadvantaged and students who have disabilities and those who do not. The data, which the state is federally mandated to collect and release, show the following discrepancies in proficiency rates among students on state math and English language arts exams:
- Nearly 48 percent of white students are proficient in English language arts, compared with about 19 percent of black students. In math, 45 percent of white students and 17 percent of black students are proficient.
- A smaller but notable gap exists between white student proficiency rates and that of “minority-other” students, which includes Hispanic, Asian and Native American children. The gap is larger in English language arts than in math proficiency. This gap will be especially important to watch as the state’s Hispanic population increases, particularly in rural areas.
- The second-largest achievement gap among subgroups exists between students who are economically disadvantaged and those who are not. In English language arts, 51 percent of students who are not economically disadvantaged are proficient, compared with about 24 percent of economically disadvantaged students. That gap is nearly the same in math.
- Female students in the state have higher proficiency rates on both subjects than male students, but that gap is larger in English language arts. There is a 7.6 percentage point gap between proficiency rates on the English language arts exam, and a 2.4 percentage point gap in math. (Despite female students leading their male peers in state exams, female students are underrepresented when it comes to taking certain college-level Advanced Placement exams in Mississippi, including several STEM subjects.)*
The data also show the districts where these gaps are most pronounced, as well as the districts that have gaps between student groups that are smaller than the state average.
- The Oxford School District, the Tupelo Public School District and the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District have the largest gaps between white students and African-American students in English language arts. Oxford and Tupelo also have the largest gaps in math.
- The North Panola Schools, Clarksdale Municipal School District and Leland School District have “negative” achievement gaps, which, according to the state report, means that a particular population, in this case, African- American students, outperformed white students in the district in English language arts. In Kemper County, North Panola, Leland, Coahoma County, and West Bolivar, African-American students outperformed white students in math.
- The biggest English language arts achievement gap between students with disabilities and students without is in the Forrest County Agricultural High School (which is its own district), the Petal School District, the Booneville School District and Newton County. In Math, Petal, and Ocean Springs had the largest gaps.
* Clarification: The data point on the underrepresentation of female students taking Advanced Placement exams refers to STEM exams.