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National Academy of Sciences (US), National Academy of Engineering (US), and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Underrepresented Groups and the Expansion of the Science and Engineering Workforce Pipeline. Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.

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Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation.

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More than 25 years ago, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued the landmark report, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. This report argued that the nation’s education system was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people.” Academic achievement test scores were falling; fewer students were adequately prepared for entry into college or the job market; and schools were failing to compete with those in other developed countries.

Later that year, the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology published the report Educating Americans for the 21st Century, responding to the impact of emerging new technologies on K-12 education. These reports occurred during a time when the demand for highly skilled workers in emerging fields was accelerating rapidly.

They called for massive reform in the educational process “at the expense of a strong public commitment to the equitable treatment of our diverse population.” Subsequently, former President George H. W. Bush convened a historic Education Summit at Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1989 with 50 governors at which they agreed to set national education goals. The Bush administration and the governors announced the six national education goals1 (Box 3-1) and created the National Education Goals Panel2 to report national and state progress toward the goals, identify promising practices for improving education, and help to build a nationwide bipartisan consensus to achieve the goals. The Goals Panel released annual reports and other resource documents as guidance for measuring progress toward the goals, establishing national education standards, assessing students’ completion of school, and recognizing the link between teacher quality and student achievement.

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BOX 3-1

Education Goals 2000. The 1989 Education Summit led to the adoption of six National Education Goals, later expanded to eight by Congress. Essentially, the goals state that by Year 2000: All children will start school ready to learn.

All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature and informed judgment needed to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself.

– A Nation At Risk, April 1983

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 that pushed for increased accountability for states, school districts, and schools; more choices for parents and students, especially those attending low-performing schools; greater flexibility for states and school districts in the use of federal education funds in exchange for improved performance; and a stronger emphasis on reading. Tough sanctions would be imposed on schools failing to show improved performance, and those that narrowed the achievement gaps would be eligible to receive State Academic Achievement Awards. The principles of the NCLB Act also flowed to other programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, such as the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants program that applies scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers. More recently, under President Barack Obama, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund, a competitive grant program designed to encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform.

In spite of the numerous reports and policy and reform initiatives targeting curriculum and educational standards, assessments, and teacher preparation, today the nation is faced with the same issues—failing schools and inequitable education at a time when there is even more need for a skilled workforce. Recent reports show that previous efforts have produced mixed results for the general populace and have had limited effectiveness in bridging the achievement gap for underrepresented minorities, the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. In fact, the efforts have failed to address the special needs of underrepresented minorities in a fashion systematic enough to sustain the small gains made. The problem has been exacerbated by a surge in the nation’s Hispanic population due to substantial immigration since the 1990s that has filled many schools with large numbers of children who are not native speakers of English. Thus, as underrepresented minorities continue to be unprepared to matriculate successfully through the education trajectory, the United States continues to fall further behind other industrialized nations in academic achievement and degree production in science and engineering.


A range of indicators signal the need for us to reconsider the efficacy of national policies and investments in K-12 education. These are presented in the context of the demographic shifts in the American population and the potential impact of continuing the legacy of inequality in the educational system. There are systemic failures in the implementation of federal, state, and local policies designed to provide equity and excellence in K-12 education, and these failures weaken our foundation for future prosperity.

K-12 Enrollment Trends

According to Projections of Education Statistics to 2018, total public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment reached a record 55 million in fall 2006 and is projected to set new records each year from 2009 through 2018, with increasing proportions of underrepresented minorities. The South is expected to maintain the largest overall enrollment, with 40 percent of students residing in this region. Private school enrollment is expected to decrease during this period, given its 9 percent enrollment growth between 1985 and 2008 compared to the 26 percent growth in public schools.3

The proportion of underrepresented minorities enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools has increased over time. Figure 3-1 shows that between 1972 and 2007, the percentage of public school students who were white decreased from 78 to 56 percent, while the percentage of students from other racial/ethnic groups increased from 22 to 44 percent, largely reflecting the growth in the percentage of Hispanic students

Vertical chart showing the distribution of public school students enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade by race and ethnicity, selected years from October 1972 to October 2007


Percentage distribution of public school students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade by race/ethnicity: Selected years, October 1972-October 2007. NOTE: “Other” includes all students who identified themselves as being Asian, Hawaiian, (more...)

Thus, the K-12 pipeline is expected to have an inevitable majority of underrepresented minorities and must be a major focal point of intervention to cultivate the diverse talent pool needed to sustain the nation’s future in STEM. The K-12 pipeline can be divided into four key transition points for the purposes of policy intervention for underrepresented minorities: prekindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school. There are indicators for each of these transition points that signal the need for intervention and that impact the continuing progression of underrepresented minority students.

International Comparisons of K-12 Mathematics and Science Performance

International comparisons provide a window through which to view our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy. These comparisons spur a review of policy issues from access to education to equity of resources devoted to educational achievement, and they point to the need for more effective and coherent strategies to improve academic performance.

For example, the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reports that math and science scores for U.S. 4th and 8th grade students were lower than those of students in peer countries, according to international benchmarks. The United States also has had the least sustained improvement in math and science from 1995 to 2007. It has, in fact, shown a 3-point decrease in the average science score for 4th grade science. The largest increase was in 8th grade mathematics, with an average score difference of 16 points.

The 2007 TIMSS report showed that African American and Hispanic students were narrowing the gap in 4th and 8th grade mathematics, but, as Figure 3-2 for Grade 8 shows, a large gap remained. Meanwhile, there is no consistent trend in science for either grade. In addition, as shown in Figure 3-3, at least at the 8th grade level, there is a large gap among schools by poverty level.

Line graph showing the gap in average math scores among U.S. African American, Latino, and white eighth grade students according to international benchmarks in the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study report


Grade 8 TIMSS average math scores by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: The Education Trust. 2008. Highlights from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, Natonal Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

Line graph showing the gap in average math scores by school poverty level according to international benchmarks in the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science report


Grade 8 TIMSS average math scores by school poverty level. SOURCE: The Education Trust. 2008. Highlights from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

As shown in Figure 3-4, the Education Trust conducted an analysis of TIMSS data that shows that average mathematics and science scores for underrepresented minorities are below the national average and thus even less competitive globally. There is a larger gap between Hispanic/Latino and African Americans in mathematics and science for grades 4 and 8, except in 4th grade science, where the average scores are about the same. African Americans scored lower than any group across the board.

Vertical bar chart showing the average fourth grade math scores for Asian, white, Hispanic, and African American students compared to the scores for U.S. students overall and internationally, according to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science report


TIMSS Grade 4 math racial/ethnic subgroup comparison to all participating countries. SOURCE: The Education Trust. 2008. Highlights from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. (more...)

The United States also compares its education system to that of the other Group of Eight (G-8) countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom—that are among the world’s most economically developed and among the nation’s major competitors. Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 20094 shows that the United States has the largest percentage of 5- to 19-year-olds of all of the G-8 countries and experienced the highest growth in that subpopulation between 1996 and 2006. However, other G-8 countries outpace the United States in reading literacy, mathematics, and science. The United States also displays the widest disparity among racial/ethnic subgroups. The average years of teaching experience among 4th grade teachers in England and the United States was lower than in all other participating G-8 countries. The average teaching experience was three years lower in 2006 compared to 2001. While it spent a higher percentage of its GDP on education in 2005, it awarded among the lowest percentages of first university degrees in STEM of all the G-8 countries. It was the only G-8 country to award more first university degrees in the arts and humanities than in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Andreas Schleicher, in commenting on international benchmarking, indicated in a July 2009 briefing at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that the U.S. education system needs a paradigm shift, one that embraces diversity, delivers equity, adopts universal high standards, and uses data and best practices. He commented that the distinction between public and private schools does not matter too much and that the United States should move from prescribed forms of teaching and assessment toward more personalized learning. All agree that the trends shown in the reports will only worsen if the nation does not aggressively and systematically remedy the problems that perpetuate the achievement gaps and underrepresentation of minorities in STEM.

Understanding Mathematics and Science Achievement Gaps

The achievement gap between white and minority students in K-12 mathematics and science is well documented in numerous research and statistical reports (e.g., Condition of Education, The Nation’s Report Card, Science and Engineering Indicators). These confirm that family and community differences and school context have a significant impact on student achievement throughout the K-12 spectrum. For example, gaps in mathematics and science start in kindergarten and widen over time among underrepresented minorities generally, and especially among children with such risk factors as poverty, having a mother whose highest level of education was less than a high school diploma, or a home language other than English. The Condition of Education 2009 reports that a higher percentage of white children had family members who read to them daily than did children of other racial/ethnic groups. Also, a higher percentage of Asian children were read to than Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children at all ages, and than black children at ages two and four. Overall, a smaller percentage of children in poverty were read stories to, told stories to, or sung to daily by a family member, compared with children not in poverty.5

The achievement gap in mathematics and science is documented in numerous national assessments of student progress that have reported some fluctuations but the same trend for decades. As an illustration, Table 3-1 shows the average mathematics scores of students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey (ECLS) by race/ethnicity from kindergarten to grade five for 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2007 as reported by the National Science Foundation (2008).6 From kindergarten to 8th grade, white students posted a gain of 116 points; Hispanics, a gain of 113 points; and blacks, a gain of 101 points. By 5th grade, the gap between white and black students in average mathematics scores was 24 points, and the average score of black 5th grade students was equivalent to the average 3rd grade score of white students.

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Average Mathematics Scores of Students from Beginning Kindergarten to Grade 8, by Race/Ethnicity: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2007.

ECLS data suggest that some gaps widened as students progressed through elementary school and that other gaps, such as those between boys and girls, emerged that were not present when students started school. Boys and girls started kindergarten at the same overall mathematics performance level, but by the end of 5th grade, boys had made larger mathematics gains than girls, resulting in a gender gap of four points.

Some research suggests that widening achievement gaps as students progress through school are, at least in part, a result of differential learning growth and loss during the summer (Cooper, 1996; Alexander et al., 2007 ). Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains. These findings have been attributed to greater ability among higher-income parents to provide their children with mathematically stimulating materials and activities during the summer.

According to the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS), similar gaps persist through high school. For example, the proportion of 12th grade students overall demonstrating proficiency in advanced mathematics was lower and decreased as more advanced skills were tested. While each demographic subgroup examined improved in mathematics skills from 10th to 12th grade, minority students’ scores were lower than those for white students (Table 3-2). By 12th grade, the average performance of black students was slightly lower than the average 10th grade performance of white and Asian students. A similar pattern is shown also for science assessments from 3rd through 12th grade. Thus, as larger numbers of underrepresented minorities are entering the STEM pipeline, many still are not progressing at a rate comparable to that of whites.

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Average Science Score of Students in Grades 4, 8, and 12, by Race/Ethnicity: 1996, 2000, and 2005.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is the primary source used to report student performance data for the nation and specific geographic regions of the country and to produce The Nation’s Report Card. The NAEP mathematics and science frameworks are developed under the direction of the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets specific achievement levels (basic, proficient, and advanced) for each subject area and grade as standards for student performance. The assessment uses two dimensions of mathematics, content areas and mathematical complexity. The science framework emphasizes assessing science concepts and application of scientific knowledge and skills rather than factual knowledge.

NAEP Mathematics

The most recent NAEP assessments of educational progress for 4th and 8th graders in mathematics show that all racial/ethnic groups showed higher average mathematics scores in 2009 than in 2007 and 1990.7 Asian/Pacific Islander 4th grade scores were the highest followed by those of whites. Score increases did not consistently result in a significant closing of performance gaps between white and underrepresented minority students, although gains over the years for black students resulted in a smaller gap between black and white students in 2009 than in 1990. Male students continued to score two points higher on average than female students.

The average mathematics score for 4th graders in public schools (239) was lower than for students in private schools overall (246) and in Catholic schools specifically (245). Students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch continued to score lower on average than students who were not; however, average mathematics scores were higher in 2009 than in 2007 for all three groups. Mathematics scores increased from 2007 to 2009 for black students in Delaware and New Jersey; Hispanic students in Delaware, Florida, Missouri, and New Mexico; American Indian/Alaska Native students in Oklahoma. In no state did scores decline since 2005 for students overall or for any racial/ethnic group.

Table 3-3 compares the 2007 average scale scores and achievement level results by race/ethnicity for 4th and 8th grade public school students. Eighth graders reported gains for each of the five content areas. The largest percentage of the 168 questions that made up the 8th grade mathematics assessment (approximately 30 percent) focused on algebra. The percentages of 8th grade public school students at or above basic and proficient and advanced increased steadily from 1990 to 2007. White, black, and Hispanic students showed higher average mathematics scores in 2007 than in all previous assessment years. The score for Asian/Pacific Islander students showed no significant change in comparison to 2005 but was higher than in 1990. No significant change in the score was seen for American Indian/Alaska Native students.

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Average Mathematics Scale Scores and Achievement Level Results by Race/Ethnicity for 4th and 8th Grade Public School Students, 2007.

The most recent mathematics assessment for 12th graders is reported in Science 2005 8 and is based on a new framework. The assessment includes more questions on algebra, data analysis, and probability to reflect changes in high school mathematics standards and coursework. Sixty-one percent of high school seniors performed at or above the Basic level, and only 23 percent performed at or above Proficient.

Asian/Pacific Islander students scored higher than students from other racial/ethnic groups. The average for white students was 31 points higher than for black students and 24 points higher than for Hispanic students. Male students scored higher on average than female students overall. Thirty-six percent of Asian/Pacific Islander and 29 percent of white students scored at or above Proficient, while just 6 percent of black, 8 percent of Hispanic, and 6 percent of American Indian/Alaska native students performed at that level. Fifty-five percent of students who reported taking a mathematics Advanced Placement course performed at that level.

The trends shown in long-term assessments in mathematics in 2007–2009 for students ages 9, 13, and 17 report similar results. In 2008, public school students scored lower than their private school counterparts at ages 9 and 13. Public school students scored lower than Catholic school students at all three ages in 2008.

From 2004 to 2008, black and Hispanic students ages 9 and 13 showed no significant change. At age 17, the score for neither white, black nor Hispanic students showed a significant change. Further, the gap between the white and the black and Hispanic students has narrowed since 1973 but has not changed significantly since 2004.

Significantly, taking higher-level mathematics courses was associated with higher scores on the long-term trend mathematics assessment in 2008 at ages 13 and 17 and in the main mathematics assessments for grades 4, 8, and 12.

NAEP Science

Table 3-4 compares the average science scale scores for each racial/ethnic group for 2000 and 2005. In 2005, the average 4th grade science score was higher than in previous assessment years, with underrepresented minorities and lower-income students making significant gains. Average science scores for 8th and 12th graders remained unchanged. From 2000 to 2005, black and Hispanic students’ science scores improved, except for 12th graders, and the gaps between white and black and white and Hispanic students narrowed. However, there is still a 33-point score gap between white and black students, a 29-point score gap between white and Hispanic students, and a 27-point score gap between white and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

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Average Science Scale Scores by Race/Ethnicity and Grade: 2000 and 2005.

For both the 4th and 8th graders, a larger proportion of students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch were below the Basic level of proficiency than those who were not eligible. The 12th graders who scored at or above Proficiency tended to have at least one parent who graduated from college and 40 percent took at least one Advanced Placement science course. Within each course-taking level, male students outperformed female students. White and Asian/Pacific Islanders scored higher than black and Hispanic students.

Causes and Interventions

Researchers offer many explanations for the persistent achievement gaps while recognizing that there are many interrelated factors. They agree that family and community differences, school context, low expectations and lack of exposure to role models, insufficient information about career opportunities, and availability of advanced courses affect minority students’ success in mathematics and science. They attest also to the impact of interventions in promoting high achievement for minority students, notably The Algebra Project, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program, and the Indigenous Education Institute. (See Boxes 3-2, 3-3, 3-4, and 3-5.)

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BOX 3-2

Knowledge Is Power (KIPP) Program. KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life. There are currently 66 (more...)

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BOX 3-3

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Program. FIRST is a nonprofit organization that engages K-12 students in mentor-based programs that develop STEM skills, motivate inquiry, and cultivate personal capabilities such as self-confidence, (more...)

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BOX 3-4

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Program. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is a program designed to help underachieving middle and high school students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. This program offers (more...)

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BOX 3-5

Indigenous Education Institute. The Indigenous Education Institute (IEI) was created in 1965 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) institute with a mission to preserve, protect, and apply traditional indigenous knowledge in a contemporary setting, that of indigenous (more...)

Experts cite the need for additional research on effective interventions to eliminate racial achievement gaps as well as the need to facilitate the translation of research into practice. To address the latter problem, the superintendents from Evanston Township High School, Shaker Heights (Ohio), Chapel Hill (North Carolina), Arlington (Virginia), Ann Arbor (Michigan), Madison (Wisconsin), and nine other districts formed the Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) to collectively “create a body of educational research that informs classroom- and system-level practice and helps eliminate racial achievement gaps” and to “disseminate and implement effective practices learned or developed by the MSAN to network members.”9 The group was formed in response to a National Research Council report that focused on the need for research that addresses the problems of educational practice.10 The report proposed the establishment of a Strategic Education Research Program (SERP) that would tap the energies of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to address fundamental issues in education, including how advances in research on human cognition, development, and learning can be incorporated into educational practice.

During the 2006–2007 school year, MSAN brought together teachers, social psychologists, and mathematics education researchers from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas to develop a comprehensive approach (the AYD Initiative) to introductory algebra for 9th grade students who previously have struggled with math. In addition to identifying the components of a strong curricular, instructional, and assessment design, the project focused on the social and psychological factors that affect student learning. The AYD Initiative (1) crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing together researchers with expertise in mathematics with researchers who study social and psychological factors—such as stereotype threat—that affect student achievement, (2) spans the research-practice gap, bringing together math and science teachers with social psychologists and mathematics researchers, and (3) utilizes a network of schools to disseminate successful instructional practices, arranging for teachers to observe each other’s classes and to collaborate by sharing curricular materials and instructional strategies. Research finds that the most promising approaches to improving the low performance of certain groups of students pay as much attention to the social forces operating in schools and in classrooms as they do to skill and knowledge development. Research also provides evidence that social psychological interventions can have remarkably strong effects on engagement, as well as on test scores and grade point average.11

MSAN has developed a validation process to identify programs that are proven to be successful. The validation process is a peer review process that includes a review of multiple years of achievement and other quantitative data and an on-site visit by MSAN representatives to gather qualitative data.

The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence (Box 3-6) is another example of a multifaceted intervention for school reform with proven success. Based at the University of Texas at El Paso, this initiative has become a national model.

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BOX 3-6

The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence. The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, based at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a broad-based, citywide collaboration of education, business and civic leaders that has worked for over (more...)

Informal Science Education: Seamless Networks

Increasingly, informal science education is being used to address issues of scientific literacy, cultural relevance, equity, and access for women and minority populations. The National Science Foundation was the first to recognize and support the role of community organizations, museums, and media as rich resources and essential partners in the educational process. It created the Division of Informal Science Education (ISE) in 1984 based on the recommendation of Educating Americans for the 21st Century: A Report to the American People and the National Science Board.12

“An important perspective on informal science learning in informal environments emphasizes that, although treating the construct of culture as a homogeneous categorical variable is problematic, people nonetheless do ‘live culturally’.”13 Informal science education can make science accessible, meaningful, and relevant for diverse students by connecting their home and community cultures to science. Nancy Brayboy and David Begay (2005) demonstrate in Sharing the Skies how to bridge the culture of science through a cross-cultural view of Navajo astronomy.

More research is needed on how to structure informal science education to better serve minorities; however, designed environments such as museums can provide access to specific content and facilitate social interaction and learning in intergenerational groups. Research has documented that participation in many venues (e.g., designed formal settings, science media) is skewed toward the dominant cultural group, although there are some exceptions.

Wheaton and Ash’s research (2008) on science education in informal programming with Spanish-speaking families found that participating girls welcomed and enjoyed the bilingual program because they learned science terminology and concepts in both languages and thus better communicated with their parents (who were predominantly Spanish speaking) about what they were doing and learning in camp.14

The Native Waters and the Algebra Projects are cited as examples of approaches that incorporate a learner’s cultural identity.

In sum, an informal environment designed to serve particular cultural groups and communities should be developed and implemented with the interests and concerns of these groups in mind. Project goals should be mutually determined by educators and the communities they serve.15


K-12 is considered a continuum, and the problems at one level affect each succeeding level. Moreover, the issues pertaining to the achievement and progression of underrepresented minorities are common to all levels. The major issues are described below.


Pre-kindergarten (pre-K) is designed to prepare children for entry into elementary school by cultivating the prerequisite developmental skills for success in the early grades, and the long-term benefits of high-quality early childhood programs for all children are well documented. Studies also cite the positive effects on absenteeism, classroom behavior, grade repetition, high school graduation rates, crime, and academic achievement, substantially countering the negative effects of family and environmental risk factors for low-income and minority populations. There is evidence also that the benefits of investments in pre-K outweigh the costs to society (Bartik 2006, Dickens et al. 2006). However, in the United States there is a fragmented approach to early childhood programs and services, and children who have the most risk factors still do not enter kindergarten with the intellectual and social tools they need to progress successfully through elementary school.

Head Start is the nation’s primary program for addressing the educational and developmental needs of children of low-income families who do not otherwise have access to quality preschool education. It is a “national program that promotes school readiness by enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families.”16 In 2007, the program served over 900,000 children at a total cost of about $6.888 billion, or about $7,326 per child. However, because of chronic underfunding and recent budget cuts, it enrolls only about 40 percent of eligible children.17 With the projected increase in minority pre-school population, this means that fewer children will have access to the program. The recently enacted Stimulus Act18 provides a one-time infusion of $1.1 billion to double the number of children served by Early Head Start over two years, an additional $1 billion to expand and improve Head Start, and an additional $2 billion in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.19 However, this level of funding will need to be sustained into the future.

And we should raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs. . . . Today, some early learning programs are excellent. Some are mediocre. And some are wasting what studies show are—by far—a child’s most formative years.

That’s why I have issued a challenge to America’s governors: If you match the success of states like Pennsylvania and develop an effective model for early learning; if you focus reform on standards and results in early learning programs; if you demonstrate how you will prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success—then you can compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant that will help prepare all our children to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

—President Barack Obama, Remarks to the NAACP, July 16, 2009

Program statistics for FY 2007 show that 30.1 percent of enrolled children identify as Black/African American, 34.7 percent as Hispanic/Latino, 4.0 percent as American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.8 percent as Pacific Islander. About 8.0 percent of program funding is targeted to American Indian-Alaska Native and Migrant and Seasonal Programs.

Many states also now provide pre-kindergarten programs as a result of the growing need for early intervention and documented evidence of its effectiveness. However, there is wide variation in these programs and great disparities exist from state to state and among districts, even in their stages of development. Some programs cover 3- and 4-year olds (usually 4-year-olds), while others target special populations such as the urban and rural poor. Some states offer full-day while others offer part-day programs. Some offer full-year programming, but most are part-year corresponding to the academic year. Some provide comprehensive developmental services to children and families; others focus more directly on just the academic preparation for kindergarten. Oklahoma is the only state where practically every child can start school at age four. Enrollment in state-funded pre- kindergarten increased to more than 1.1 million children in 2007–2008, with more than 973,178 4-year-olds alone. Thirty-three of the 38 states offering such programs increased enrollment.20

Total state spending for pre-K rose to almost $4.6 billion in 2007–2008. In most states, however, funding per child from all sources (local, state, and federal) appears too low for programs to meet the ten benchmarks for quality standards established by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Advocates such as Pre-K Now are challenging state pre-K programs to provide universal comprehensive services, particularly to rural and underrepresented minority children. However, states are faced with fiscal constraints that limit the expansion, enhancement, and quality of pre-K programs. Some are creatively leveraging federal and state funds in order to offer Head Start and childcare providers and to support staff development. Some states have had success at funding pre-K as a line item in state budgets or as an element of their school formulas, but such efforts still rely heavily on federal dollars to supplement and intensify services.

Research and assessment reports document the efficacy of Head Start and state pre-k programs as well as the differences in outcomes between the two21 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families January 2010 Head Start Impact Study; Gormley, Phillips, and Gayer, 2008; National Institute for Early Education Research; Barnett, Jung, Wong, Cook, and Lamy, 2007). They also cite a number of issues that impact the effectiveness of these strategies and argue for more collaboration and integration to optimize the services to children and families.

Teacher quality is a major issue for public pre-K programs and Head Start. In a multistate study of pre-K, the National Center for Early Development & Learning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that about 81 percent of public pre-K teachers had a bachelor’s degree or higher, and only 8 percent reported no postsecondary degree.22 This compares to 57 percent with a bachelor’s or higher in nonpublic school settings and 24 percent with no postsecondary degree. African American and Hispanic/Latino teachers were somewhat less likely to have a bachelor’s degree than white teachers. In addition, classrooms where the teacher did not have a bachelor’s degree tended to have a higher proportion of children from low-income backgrounds than classrooms where the teacher had a bachelor’s degree. The average salary received by teachers in this population (about $19 per hour) is higher than has been reported in studies of childcare teachers (somewhat over $8 per hour) or Head Start teachers (about $16 per hour). This is likely due to the higher education levels of these pre-K teachers compared to childcare or Head Start teachers.

Scholars point to the need to rethink the pre-K system for underrepresented minorities, using research and best practices concerning 3- and 4-year-olds and their families. As one concept, the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has launched a new model for First School with the following features:23

  • Be available for all children from age three to about age eight.
  • Provide seamless transitions for children from pre-K to 3rd grade.
  • Integrate and align curriculum across grades.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate facilities and activities.
  • Focus on academic skills, social-emotional development, and physical health.
  • Involve strong and meaningful partnerships with families in developing, implementing, and evaluating the model.
  • Use data to drive and monitor school change.

The major issues confronting the nation in developing model preschool programs for underrepresented minority children are the following:

  • Funding: Per-pupil funding is too low for many states to improve the overall quality of programs, and there is growing disparity in funding between states. The bulk of federal funding for early childhood education now goes to Head Start and to the Child Care Block Grant, which provides childcare subsidies for poor families. As these programs are not designed to serve all young children, a new federal initiative is needed to support early learning and development more broadly.
  • Teacher preparation and quality: Teacher qualifications for many public pre-K and Head Start programs are inconsistent with those of K-12 schools, and their salaries are not comparable to the salaries earned by kindergarten teachers. Resources are inadequate to support pre-service teacher education and in-service professional development focused on the needs of minority populations. There are inadequate incentives to recruit and retain qualified pre-K teachers.
  • Access: Head Start targets primarily children from low-income families. While the amount of state support for pre-K has increased overall, discrepancies persist between state programs and among individual programs within states. Leading states, such as Oklahoma, have enrolled more than 70 percent of the state’s 4- year-olds in state-funded programs, while others serve fewer than 5 percent. Some states have yet to establish any publicly funded pre-K programs. Public pre-K programs and Head Start must respond to a growing diverse population of children, in terms of race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and dominant language.
  • Curriculum and standards: Head Start is guided by federal guidelines. State standards vary, although most are benchmarking the National Institute for Early Education Research quality standards. There is a need for better connection to full-day kindergarten and primary grades with aligned standards and curricula in a coherent education program for pre-K through 3rd grade. Head Start and other pre-K programs have produced improvement in language and literacy skills but need to focus on early math, namely, solving simple word problems involving counting, simple arithmetic, and basic measurements. While well-designed pre-K does improve children’s social and cognitive skills, gains for minority children diminish as they advance beyond kindergarten.
  • Assessment and data driven policies: Research should drive practice, particularly as a means of directly addressing the achievement gap. Translating research to practice and replicating best practices are critical strategies.

Mathematics and Science Teacher Quality

Rising Above the Gathering Storm recommends aggressive actions to recruit and strengthen the training of mathematics and science teachers and to foster high-quality teaching with “world-class curricula, standards, and assessments of student learning.” The report cites exemplars in these efforts—UTeach at the University of Texas and California Teach at the University of California, the Merck Institute for Science Education, University of Pennsylvania Science Teachers Institute, Advanced Placement Incentive Program, and Laying the Foundation. The report recommends also statewide specialty high schools and inquiry-based learning as means to increase the number of students who pass AP and IB science and mathematics courses in an effort to enlarge the pipeline of students who are prepared to enter college and graduate with a degree in science, engineering, or mathematics.

The No Child Left Behind Act also focuses on improving teacher quality and authorizes the Department of Education Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Program. It requires “highly qualified”24 teachers in all core academic classes and asks district and state leaders to attest that low-income and minority students are not taught disproportionately by out-of-field teachers. However, there is some discrepancy between the Consolidated State Performance Report and data from the Department of Education Schools and Staffing Survey suggesting that out-of-field teaching may be more prevalent than state reports indicate. It is clear that much more is needed to improve student achievement.

Public school teachers have been predominantly white. In 2008, African American and Hispanic teachers each represented 7 percent, and other racial/ethnic minority groups represented less than 2 percent.25 The racial and ethnic distributions among middle school and high school mathematics and science teachers resemble that same pattern. This is a salient issue, because declines in the number of minority teachers affect both minority and majority children. “A quality education requires that all students be exposed to the variety of cultural perspectives that represent the nation at large.”26

While the number of mathematics and science teachers has steadily increased since 1999, particularly in middle schools or in schools with the highest concentration of minority and poor students, students in non-minority and wealthier schools have continued to be substantially advantaged by the distribution of the teacher pool. In 2003, mathematics and science teachers with a master’s degree or higher were more prevalent in low-minority schools than in high-minority schools. Fully certified teachers were also more common in schools with lower proportions of underrepresented minority and poor students. In addition, although the overall percentage of beginning teachers with practice teaching experience has dropped from 1999, fewer beginning mathematics and science teachers who had any practice teaching were in schools with large concentrations of minority and poor students. Beginning mathematics and science teachers who participated in practice teaching were more likely than their counterparts without any practice teaching to report feeling well prepared to perform various teaching tasks.

Out-of-field teaching has received much attention.27 Again, mathematics and science teachers in schools with higher concentrations of minority and poor students are more likely to be teaching out of field. In fact, in high-poverty schools, more than one in every four core classes (27.1 percent) has an out-of-field teacher, compared with only about half as many classes (13.9 percent) in low-poverty schools. These are the very schools where students desperately need good teachers. High-minority and high-poverty schools are also more likely to have new mathematics and science teachers. This is particularly true in middle schools. All indicators examined showed a general pattern of unequal access to the most qualified teachers: Low-minority and low-poverty schools were more likely than high-minority and high-poverty schools to have teachers with more education, better preparation and qualifications in their field, and more experience.

Significant work remains to be done to eliminate out-of-field teaching and guarantee that low-income and underrepresented minority students have teachers with demonstrated knowledge in their subject areas. Researchers report that out-of-field teaching does not necessarily result from teacher shortages or inadequate preparation of teachers but from poor planning or administrative convenience.28 States should offer incentives to recruit and retain teachers into high-needs schools and not allow school districts to assign a greater number of out-of-field or new teachers to high-needs schools than the district average.

The NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program addresses this issue by providing funding to institutions of higher education for scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 mathematics and science teachers. Scholarship and stipend recipients are required to teach for two years in a high-need school district29 for each year of support. In addition, the program supports the recruitment and development of NSF Teaching Fellows who receive salary supplements while fulfilling a four-year teaching requirement and the development of NSF Master Teaching Fellows by providing professional development and salary supplements while they are teaching for five years in a high-need school district.

Teacher quality is considered the most critical factor affecting academic achievement.30 Research by Harris and Sass (2008) and Ingersoll (2008) attests to the impact of teacher training and teacher quality on student achievement in mathematics and science, particularly content-focused teacher professional development. They found that since experience greatly enhances the productivity of elementary and middle school teachers early in their careers, policies should be designed to promote retention of young teachers. In addition, advanced degrees are not correlated with the productivity of elementary school teachers; thus, current salary schedules, which are based in part on educational attainment, may not be an efficient way to compensate teachers. In addition, more resources should be directed toward content-focused training for teachers in the upper grades, and changes are warranted in professional development at the elementary level and in pedagogical in-service training generally. They found no evidence that education majors are significantly more productive as teachers than nonmajors, so it seems worthwhile to experiment with “alternative certification” programs that facilitate the entry into teaching of people with majors other than education. These researchers also suggest that more experienced teachers appear more effective in teaching elementary math and reading and middle school math.

The Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative (SMTI) was formed as an ambitious effort by members of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities to substantially increase the number and diversity of high quality mathematics and science teachers in middle schools and high schools. Through partnerships among universities, school systems, the business community, and state and federal governments, SMTI intends to respond to statewide needs for teachers on a sustained basis. SMTI is developing an analytic framework to capture and share leading evidence-based practices systematically with other institutions to enhance the quality of teachers. The National Math and Science Initiative also recommends keeping content knowledge the priority for elementary and secondary teachers and offers a guide for state policy makers to inventory their own policies and regulations to ensure that each contributes to solving the teacher pipeline problem.31

The Education Trust presents a plan for equity with immediate and longer-term steps to remedy the unfair distribution of teacher quality. The Education Trust presents a case study of how three states—Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin—and their three biggest school systems—Cleveland, Chicago, and Milwaukee—attempted to solve this problem.32 The result of their surveys showed that the current system of distributing teacher quality produces exactly the opposite of what is needed to close achievement gaps. They found consistently that highly qualified teachers were more likely teaching in schools with less poverty and fewer students of color and in schools with higher achievement. Researchers at the Illinois Education Research Council looked at a combination of measures and documented differences in the combined characteristics of teachers in high- and low-poverty schools and attempted to understand how, if at all, these differences affected student achievement. They found that quality matters a lot. For example, in schools with just average teacher quality, students who completed Algebra II were more prepared for college than their peers in schools with the lowest teacher quality who had completed calculus.33

The federal government could use policy as a lever to address the equity problem. Title I—Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged is “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.” The assumption seems to be that these funds are added to an equitable base of state and local resources. However, the schools that have had the most low-income children have had the least qualified teachers who were paid less than veteran and fully credentialed teachers.34 Thus, school districts could spend less money in Title I schools than in other schools even with the addition of Title I funds. The law requires “comparability” in the educational opportunities provided in Title I and non-Title I schools but ignores disparities in teacher qualifications across schools and the resulting disparities in teacher salaries. Thus, millions of dollars were directed away from high-poverty schools to subsidize higher teacher salaries in schools with fewer children from low-income families. Principals in high-poverty schools received no additional money to train and support their inexperienced, lower-paid staff. The comparability loophole allowed districts to not confront the discriminatory effects of the current system.

With the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Congress insisted that states and districts had to commit to identifying and addressing shortages of qualified teachers in high-poverty and high-minority schools as a condition of continuing to receive federal funds to help with the education of disadvantaged students. Every state and district that wanted to participate in Title I had to develop a plan “to ensure that poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has argued for differential pay for teachers of mathematics, science, and other high-need subjects, stating that there needs to be a more market-driven approach to teacher pay in which schools can bid for outside talent and recruit it. “It’s not the solution,” he has said of this approach to addressing mathematics and science teacher shortages, “but it’s a piece of the solution.” He maintains further that teacher colleges need to become more rigorous and clinical, much like other graduate programs, in order create that “new army of great teachers.” High-quality alternative pathways for aspiring teachers that should expand in coming years, Duncan contends, include those like the New Teacher Project, the Troops to Teacher Program, and Teach for America.

I believe that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. And if you care about promoting opportunity and reducing inequality, the classroom is the place to start. Great teaching is about so much more than education; it is a daily fight for social justice.

—Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, at the University of Virginia, October 9, 2009

College Readiness

Each year high school students take the ACT and/or SAT in order to qualify for admission to college. However, the tests also provide compelling feedback about the academic preparation of students throughout the K-12 continuum. The 2009 SAT and ACT reports document and reaffirm the achievement gap between white and underrepresented minority students. Although there is considerable controversy about the validity of using either test to predict college success and the racial bias implicit in test design, the tests still are used as the standard to guide most college admissions decisions.

More than 1.5 million students in the class of 2009 took the SAT. Forty percent were underrepresented minority students, an increase from 38.0 percent in 2008 and 29.2 percent in 1999 and the largest and most diverse group ever to take the test. There was an increase also in the number of students who said they were first-generation college students and in the number who reported that English was not their first language.

Not surprisingly, average SAT scores vary widely by race, gender, and income, and some gaps even widened. In 2009, the average scores were 501 in critical reading, 515 in mathematics (same as 2008), and 493 in writing. The reading and writing scores each dropped by one point for all groups. The differences in SAT scores were most pronounced between Asian students, who scored an average of 1623 out of 2400, and African American students, who averaged 1276. The national average was 1509. Meanwhile, African American students had the lowest average combined mathematics and critical reading score of 855, while white students had an average combined score of 1064 (Table 3-5). Moreover, students with a reported family income of more than $200,000 increased their average combined score over 2008 by 26 points, to 1702. Students who reported family incomes of less than $20,000 a year averaged 1321, a gain of one point.

Table Icon


Average Scores on the SAT Reasoning Test by Race/Ethnicity, 2009.

Females comprised 53.5 percent of the 2009 test-taking group and had a combined mathematics and critical reading score of 997 compared to 1037 for males. African American females and males had the lowest average combined mathematics and critical reading scores of 851 and 861, respectively, while Asian female and male students had the highest average combined scores of 1087 and 1118, respectively. White females and males ranked second, with combined scores of 1046 and 1085.

Mean scores in mathematics for underrepresented minorities vary considerably among the states, as shown in the sample in Table 3-6. States acknowledge the performance gaps for underrepresented minorities, and some have implemented interventions to improve mathematics achievement. For example, Georgia introduced a new mathematics curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS), beginning with 6th graders in 2005. The GPS has been phased in one grade per year. Students in the class of 2012 will be the first graduating class to have been fully instructed in GPS mathematics during secondary school.

Table Icon


Average State Mathematics Scores on the SAT Reasoning Test by Race/Ethnicity, 2009.

A record number of students took the ACT in 2009. Of the 1,480,000 who took the test, only about 23 percent were underrepresented minorities, and 64 percent were white. Overall test scores remained the same between 2005 and 2009, although 25 percent more high school graduates have taken the ACT over this period, and the group has become more heterogeneous. Average composite scores for all groups increased between 2005 and 2009 except for African American graduates, whose average score decreased by 0.1 scale point. The ACT establishes college readiness benchmarks and reported that students from most racial/ethnic groups met the English benchmark, followed in order by the reading, mathematics, and science benchmarks.35 Three benchmarks were met by at least 50 percent of Asian American/Pacific Islander and white students, while one was met by at least 50 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native students. None of the benchmarks were met by at least 50 percent of Hispanic or African American students. As with the SAT, graduates who took a college preparatory core curriculum in high school were more likely to meet the ACT benchmarks in 2009. The largest curriculum-based difference in benchmark attainment rates was in mathematics.

Figure 3-5 compares the percentage of students taking core courses, by race/ethnicity, in 1999 and 2009. There is an increase from 74 to 80 percent of students overall completing core courses since 1999 with Native American (66 to 75) and white students (76 to 84) showing the largest gain. Black and Mexican American students are the least represented in 2009, with percentages of 72 and 71, respectively.

Vertical bar chart showing the percentage of students taking core college preparatory courses during high school by race and ethnicity in 1999 and 2009, as reported by the College Board


Percentage of students with core course work during high school by race/ethnicity. SOURCE: The College Board, Graph Set 5: Course Taking Patterns Continued: 1999 and 2009.

The strongest SAT and ACT performers had three things in common. They had completed a core curriculum, had taken the most rigorous courses, and had familiarized themselves with the test. The core curriculum consisted of four or more years of English, three or more years of natural science, and three or more years of social science and history. Students in the SAT class of 2009 who took core curricula scored an average of 46 points higher on the critical reading section, 44 points higher on the mathematics section, and 45 points higher on the writing section than those who did not. Similarly, students in the class of 2009 who had taken the most demanding honors or Advanced Placement® courses had higher SAT scores on this year’s test. For example, students who took AP® or honors English courses scored 60 points higher in critical reading and 59 points higher in writing than the average of all students. Similarly, students who took AP or honors math courses had a 79-point advantage compared to the average mathematics score. And students who had previously taken the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test scored 121 points higher on average than those who did not take the test. The overall performance of underrepresented minorities on the 2009 SAT and ACT is indicative of the trend seen for decades.

In a recent report, the College Board presented data showing that although there are increasing numbers of African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students participating in AP, these students still remain underserved and are less successful on AP exams, especially African Americans.36 As shown in Figure 3-6, African American students represent 14.5 percent of the public school graduating class of 2009, and 8.2 percent of the AP examinees (compared to 14.4 percent and 7.8 percent in 2008). Hispanic students represent 15.9 percent of the public school graduating class of 2009 and 15.5 percent of the AP examinees (compared to 15.4 percent and 14.8 percent in 2008). Generally, states have done poorly in closing the equity and excellence gap for minority students, particularly the states with the largest percentage of underrepresented minorities in the 2009 graduating class. This further affirms that these students are not being adequately prepared for success in college proportionately to white and Asian students. “Major initiatives are needed to ensure adequate preparation of students in middle school and 9th and 10th grades so that all students will have an equitable chance at success when they go on to take AP courses and exams later in high school.”

Vertical bar chart showing the percentage of students taking Advanced Placement examinations by race and ethnicity compared to their representation in the overall student population in 2009


Access to AP by race/ethnicity—U.S. Public schools: High school class of 2009. SOURCE: The College Board. 2010. The 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation.

The report cites the National Governor’s Association’s Advanced Placement Expansion Project and the National Math and Science Initiative’s Training and Incentive Program as two major initiatives that are helping schools make progress toward closing the achievement gaps. They demonstrate the importance of state-level policies in expanding access to AP to more diverse students. For example, states with large Hispanic student populations, such as Florida, Texas, and California, all have AP-related multiyear student reform initiatives that use AP as a capstone. States with large African American student populations are only beginning to address these disparities. There is general consensus that the factors that contribute to better performance also impact college enrollment and completion. As there has been greater pressure for improved academic achievement from employers and colleges and universities, some states have increased the number of required mathematics and science courses, and all have adopted content standards in mathematics and science. However, there still is no alignment of high school graduation requirements and first-year college course requirements.

Generally, more high school students have completed more mathematics and science courses since 1990, including more advanced courses. However, an increase in course taking is not sufficient to significantly increase the overall performance of underrepresented minorities.

Student success in mathematics is among the most reliable predictors of success in college and the workplace. Students who successfully complete Algebra II as their highest math course in high school are more than five times as likely as students who only complete Algebra I to attain a bachelor’s degree. However, few minority students take higher level math courses in high school as shown in Figure 3-7. Asian students outnumber all other groups in taking pre-calculus and calculus.

Vertical bar chart showing the percentage of high school students taking pre-calculus in 1999 and 2009, by race and ethnicity


Percentage of high school students taking pre-calculus by race/ ethnicity: 1999 and 2009. SOURCE: The College Board, Graph Set 5: Course-Taking Patterns: 1999 and 2009.

Reports document a declining student interest in STEM and the fact that too many students are not adequately prepared to succeed in college-level coursework. However, reports consistently show that students who have access to high-level and rigorous coursework and who are taught by teachers with high levels of experience and high expectations for performance are more likely to be prepared for and succeed in the STEM fields regardless of race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status (ACT, 2006; Lleras, 2008).

Dr. Ronald F. Ferguson, a senior lecturer in education and policy at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, expects standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, to effectively measure the achievement gap over time. Although more students, especially underrepresented minorities, are taking the SAT, the growth in test takers is reaching deep into the high school student pool and testing lower-achieving students. Others opine that the SAT and ACT are especially poor metrics for measuring trends in the achievement gap because the population of test takers is not stable. These assessments are undertaken only by students who plan to attend college, and the proportion who fall in that group has changed over time. As a result, it is not possible to discern whether changes in the achievement gap reflect changes in performance levels or changes in who is or is not taking the tests. The NAEP 12th grade exam is subject to the same weakness, because high school dropouts are not tested. For this reason, the NAEP 8th grade exam provides a more stable metric with which to judge trends in achievement gaps. NCES surveys such as High School and Beyond (high school class of 1982), the National Educational Longitudinal Study (high school class of 1992), and the Educational Longitudinal Study (high school class of 2004) maintain dropouts in their follow-up samples, so they offer better assessments of the achievement gap at the end of high school than the NAEP or college entry assessments. “The numbers are increasing,” Ferguson warns. “We need better instruction and better instruction is going to require better leadership. The fact that the scores aren’t going up with the numbers [means that] we have to do more than act on a slogan. We have to prepare students for college” 37

The Need for Sustained Systemic Intervention and Reform

Federal support for interventions has been agency and program specific, with little cohesion and synergy. Also, the assessments of such interventions tend to document whether they have accomplished their program goals, rather than systemic outcomes. Current measures do not attest to the cumulative impact of these national investments, too few target underrepresented minorities, and there is no systematic way to translate the results of the research into classroom applications.

Partially addressing the issues, the Obama administration has issued A Blueprint for Reform to guide the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),38 replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. It challenges states, districts, and schools to ensure that all students graduating or on track to graduate from high school are ready for college and a career by 2020. The priorities include evidence-based rigorous standards to improve performance in high-need schools, equitable distribution of quality teachers and resources, innovative programs for English Learners, and rewards for performance. The blueprint proposes to strengthen formula grant programs for Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native education, giving more flexibility to tribal education departments in managing programs and services for Indian students within their jurisdiction.

The blueprint calls on states to provide high-quality STEM instruction by leveraging federal, state, and local funds to integrate evidence-based, effective mathematics or science programs into the teaching of other academic subjects. It emphasizes the need to provide substantial support to high-need schools, including professional development for teachers and school leaders, high-quality curricula, instructional materials and assessments, and interventions that assure that all students are served effectively. Priority will be given to states adopting common, state-developed, college- and career-ready standards.



The six goals were later expanded to eight by Congress.


The Goals Panel was reconstituted to include representatives from Congress as voting members and equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. President Clinton signed the “Goals 2000: Educate America Act” adding state legislators to the panel membership.


W. J. Hussar and Bailey, T. M. 2009. Projections of Education Statistics to 2018 (NCES 2009-062). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.


D. C. Miller, A. Sen, L. B. Malley, and S. D. Burns. 2009. Comparative Indicators of Education in the United States and Other G-8 Countries: 2009 (NCES 2009-039). (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.


M. Planty, W. Hussar, et al. 2009. The Condition of Education 2009 (NCES 2009-081). National Center for Education Statistics Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.


National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2008.


The Nation’s Report Card: Mathematics 2009. National Assessment of Educational Progress at Grades 4 and 8 (NCES 2010-451). 2010. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.


W. Grigg, M. Lauko, and D. Brockway. 2006. The Nation’s Report Card: Science 2005 (NCES 2006-466). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.


Laura Cooper. 2007. Why closing the research-practice gap is critical to closing student achievement gaps, Theory and Practice 46(4):317–324.


National Research Council. 1999. Improving Student Learning: A Strategic Plan for Education Research and Its Utilization. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


G. L. Cohen, J. Garcia, N. Apfel, and A. Master. 2006. Reducing the racial achievement gap: A social-psychological intervention. Science 313:1307–1310.


ISE is now a program unit in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings.


National Academies. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, p. 210.


National Academies. Learning Science, p. 234.


Ibid, p. 235.


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.


States offering no programs are Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.


The 2010 Head Start Impact Study found that by the end of the 1st grade, Head Start children did significantly better on the vocabulary measure and test of oral comprehension than non-Head Start children. The Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (2009) showed that children who attended the Abbott pre-K continued to outperform their peers at the end of the second grade and that there are advantages for those who had two years of preschool compared to just one.


Pre-K Education in the States. Early Developments, FPG Child Development Institute: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Spring 2005) 9(1):6.


NCEDL Director’s Notes, Early Developments, FPG Child Development Institute: UNC-Chapel Hill (Spring 2005) 9(1):5.


To be considered “highly qualified,” a teacher must possess a bachelor’s degree and full state certification or licensure and demonstrate knowledge of the content in the subject he or she teaches.


NCES. 2009a. Characteristics of Public, Private, and Bureau of Indian Education Elementary and Secondary School Teachers in the United States From the 2007–08 Schools Staffing Survey (NCES 2009-324). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.


M. Donnelly. 1988. Training and Recruiting Minority Teachers, ERIC Digest Series Number EA29, p. 1.


“Out-of-field teachers” are defined as those possessing neither certification in the subject they have been assigned to teach nor an academic major in that subject.


R. M. Ingersoll. 2008. Core Problems: Out-of-Field Teaching Persists in Key Academic Courses and High-Poverty Schools. Washington, DC: The Education Trust.


Defined in Section 201 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1021).


There is no consensus on what defines teacher quality. The most common measures are content knowledge, experience, pedagogical skills, and academic skills and knowledge.


Tackling the STEM Crisis: Five Steps Your State Can Take to Improve the Quality and Quantity of Its K-12 Math and Science Teachers. National Math and Science Initiative. Available at http://www​​/docs/nctq_nmsi_stem_initiative.pdf.


H. Peske and K. Haycock. 2006. Teaching Inequality: How Poor and Minority Students Are Shortchanged on Teacher Quality. Washington, DC: The Education Trust.


Karen J. DeAngelis, Jennifer B. Presley, and Bradford R. White. 2005. Illinois Education Research Council. Policy Report: IERC 2005-1.


Lindsey Luebchow. 2009. Equitable Resources in Low Income Schools: Teacher Equity and the Federal Title I Comparability Requirement. Washington, DC: Education Policy Program, New America Foundation.


ACT defines college readiness as students having approximately a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in first-year college English composition; college algebra; history, psychology, sociology, political science, or economics; and biology.


The College Board. 2010. The 6th Annual AP Report to the Nation. New York, NY: The College Board. The College Board uses an AP Exam score of three or higher to define success. More research is needed to establish the conditions under which AP Exam scores lower than three relate to college success.


J. L. Plummer. More diversity among 2009 SAT test takers, scores slightly down, Diverse Education, August 26, 2009. Found at http:​//diverseeducation​.com/cache/print.php?articleId=12973.


A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. U.S. Department of Education, March 2010.

Copyright © 2011, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK83371


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