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Berkeley, California
Berkeley, California

According to Niche, a company that compiles data on school districts, there are numerous factors that determine whether or not a school district is a good one, as well as different metrics for ascertaining how a “good” school district performs. Resources and academic strength are all important indicators of a school district’s Niche ranking. In conjunction with these rankings, it is important to understand them with the acknowledgment that a deep education gap exists in the United States. The education gap is an issue that is often overlooked and misunderstood. Various school districts are able to provide different levels of education depending on resources. However, the education gap may be attributed to more than just district resources, the major difference likely arising from multiple factors — like the implementation of Common Core, geographical location, and gender.

To look into these phenomena, we analyzed a dataset originating from a study conducted by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University. The dataset provided statistics including district name and state, average number of students, male-female achievement gaps in both Math and English Language Arts, and factors such as income levels and percentages of students of numerous races. With this information, we were able to compare differences in performance levels between males and females depending on each subject, including fiscal expenditure. Furthermore, we created choropleths to show how these performance levels and average SAT scores differ by state.

Below is a regression model with respect to middle class income among all adults and ELA achievement gaps. It’s difficult to see a clear association between middle class income adults and ELA achievement gaps because the slope of the regression line is small. The equation for the regression line is y = (3.25 * 10 ^-7)x — 0.754. There is a slight positive association for the model.

These are the residuals between the actual ELA achievement gaps and predicted ELA achievement gaps are small. Majority of the data points form a formless cloud.This shows that there is some linear relationship between middle class income and ELA achievement gaps among men and women.

Another question that arose from the dataset was whether the amount of funding each district receives is correlated with a gap in achievement. That is, do districts that receive more funding have lower achievement gaps? By analyzing each school district’s fiscal expenditure percentage (to what percent it deviates from the national average expenditure) throughout the study’s designated school year range, it was determined that the more the expenditure for a given school district, the lower its achievement gap may be. However, further analysis was not done to analyze the difference between regions with larger populations (larger school districts that perhaps might receive more funding) and regions with smaller populations, which may have explained the achievement gap more vividly.

The choropleth above shows the difference in average SAT scores by state. As expected, the lower average SAT scores are located around the southern and midwest regions. The West Coast and the North East have higher average SAT scores. It is concerning to see such low SAT scores in these areas because a potential concern is the quality of education in public schools and what students are learning in traditional classrooms. These shockingly low average scores could be explained by the implementation of the common core. Some negative effects that the Common Core could have might be lowering education standards and creating more stress for students.

This is a choropleth for English Language Arts education achievement gap across the United States. The darker a state is, the more the education gap favors males over females in that subject. However, the previous statement is a bit misleading. According to the scale, it looks like there is a significant skew towards female achievement across the United States.

This is a choropleth for the Math education achievement gap across the United States. The darker a state is, the more the education gap favors males over females in that subject. The scale seems to be centered at around 0, meaning that our data isn’t too heavily lopsided towards any particular side. There does seem to be a slight skew towards male educational achievement, however.

While all the data analysis conducted is able to show important correlations regarding the male-female achievement gaps and various other factors (such as average SAT scores and fiscal expenditure), it is important to note that correlation does not equal causation. There may be more intricate explanations to these phenomena than what this dataset can allow us to analyze. Furthermore, the choropleths alone do not show the different achievement gaps by county, rather just give an average for the entire state. This still indicates the differences that exist among states, demonstrating overall state trends in education.

When determining a school district’s worth, it is easy to merely look at school performance and its relative wealth, but when further analyzing the situation in the context of achievement gaps and factors such as student socioeconomic diversity, a more robust view of each school district begins to form, allowing individuals to demystify the process of understanding the complexity of the American education system. It is clear that the many achievement gaps are still a problem even today, despite efforts such as No Child Left Behind and other programs with similar aims. Critics of the program assert that the lack of success may be attributed to heavy emphasis on standardized testing, rather than focusing on curriculum that may not be included on standardized tests.

Writing: Dani, Rebecca H.

Graphs: Ritvik, Anurag

Post Author: PolitiCS

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