The Black–White achievement gap has often been studied, but its relationship to school composition has generally not been explored. The demographic makeup of public schools is of particular interest, given recent concerns about the growing resegregation of schools (Frankenberg, Lee, and Orfield 2003; Orfield, Kucsera, and Siegel-Hawley 2012). This report explored eighth-grade achievement as it relates to the percentage of students in the school who were Black.
The category Black includes students who identified as “Black or African American.” or the density of Black students, to contribute to the understanding of the Black–White student achievement gap. The data used to explore these relationships came primarily from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2011 Mathematics Grade 8 Assessment but also from the Common Core of Data for 2010–11, which provided additional school characteristics.
On average, White students attended schools that were 9 percent Black while Black students attended schools that were 48 percent Black, indicating a large difference in average Black student density nationally. When the analysis examined variation in density by region and locale, the results showed that schools in the highest density category (60 percent to 100 percent Black students) were mostly located in the South and, to a lesser extent, the Midwest and tended to be in cities. The highest percentage of schools in the lowest density category were in rural areas.
Analysis of the relationship between the percentage of students in a school who were Black and achievement showed the following:
- Achievement for both Black and White students was lower in the highest Black student density schools than in the lowest density schools.
- However, the achievement gap was not different.
- White student achievement in schools with the highest Black student density did not differ from White student achievement in schools with the lowest density.
- For Black students overall, and Black males in particular, achievement was still lower in the highest density schools than in the lowest density schools.
- The Black–White achievement gap was larger in the highest density schools than in the lowest density schools.
- Conducting analysis by gender, the Black–White achievement gap was larger in the highest density schools than in the lowest density schools for males but not for females.
In addition, the size of the achievement gaps within each category of Black student density was smaller when the analysis accounted for student SES and other student, teacher, and school characteristics (except in the highest density category), suggesting that these factors explained a considerable portion of the observed achievement gap2