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Students Affected by Achievement Gaps

The term "achievement gap" is often defined as the differences between the test scores of minority and/or low-income students and the test scores of their White and Asian peers. But achievement gaps in test scores affect many different groups. Some groups may trail at particular points, for example, boys in the early years and girls in high school math and science. Differences between the scores of students with different backgrounds (ethnic, racial, gender, disability, and income) are evident on large-scale standardized tests. Test score gaps often lead to longer-term gaps, including high school and college completion and the kinds of jobs students secure as adults.


Student Groups Experiencing Achievement Gaps

  • Racial and ethnic minorities
  • English language learners
  • Students with disabilities
  • Boys/girls
  • Students from low-income families

Indicators of Achievement Gaps

  • Performance on tests (statewide tests, SATs, etc.)
  • Access to key opportunities (advanced mathematics, physics, higher education, etc.)
  • Attainments (high school diploma, college degree, employment)

Four Ethnic Groups Affected by Achievement Gaps


American Indians and Alaska Natives

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders



Other Groups Affected by Achievement Gaps

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People (GLBT)

  • A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education (NEA, 2009) (, 3.2 MB, 90pp) (Note: May take a long time to load.)
    This report describes problems facing many GLBT students: missing school, underachieving, dropping out as a direct consequence of harassment suffered at school and homelessness because of their families’ hostility toward them. It also discusses challenges faced by GLBT school employees.