Race, test scores, and educational outcomes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Policymakers wish to know what changes must be made to the primary and secondary education system so that when students apply to college they are highly prepared, ready to perform at high levels, and likely to be successful in college. Purpose: The purpose of the current study was to investigate the significance of strong educational preparation for all students-and especially for minority students-as measured by standardized test scores. While the importance of educational preparation may already seem well established, previous studies have tended to minimize or obscure the significance of the type of preparation that is measured by test scores. Existing studies are not adequate for the purpose of estimating the total effect of a hypothetical intervention that raises student achievement by one standard deviation (SD). Research Design: The current study employed logistic regression with a nationally-representative dataset, controlled for key covariates, and analyzed the hypothetical effect of raising student test scores by one SD. Findings: Raising test scores by one SD would substantially reduce the probabilities that black, Hispanic, Asian, and white students would drop out of high school, and would greatly increase the probabilities that both minority and white students would compile a rigorous high school record, complete algebra 2 in high school, enroll at a 4-year institution, and attain a baccalaureate degree. Recommendation: The results reported here underline the importance of swiftly adopting the most efficient approaches for raising student achievement. To the extent that existing approaches for raising student achievement are unproductive, inefficient, and disproportionately affect minority students, current policies may serve to depress baccalaureate attainment rates and to perpetuate the disadvantaged status of minorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-32
Number of pages32
JournalTeachers College Record
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2016


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