A study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute found that African-American first grade students experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools, although their backgrounds are not likely to be the cause of the differences.
Scientists used a sample of nearly 4,000 first grade students in public schools across the nation. Kirsten Kainz, FPG’s director of statistics, says that “When the minority composition of schools was 75% or more, the growth in African American first graders’ reading skills lagged behind their African-American peers in more integrated schools.”
Kainz says that the differences in achievement could be due to the economic, social and academic backgrounds of the students and not the segregated settings themselves. To determine between the two causes, “Kainz used a statistical technique called propensity score matching, which allows for comparison of reading growth in segregated and non-segregated schools, while also accounting for numerous differences in the students’ backgrounds.” The analysis revealed that differences in achievement in first grade reading was due to the segregated schools themselves—not the students.
“It may be that segregated schools affect African-American students in particular because these schools have fewer resources to devote to high-quality instruction, experience more teacher turnover, and are more likely to employ novice teachers,” Kainz explained. “In addition, the communities surrounding segregated schools may not have as many supports for reading development outside of the school day and year.”