Public Policy Forum Blog

Racial achievement gap in SE Wisconsin not shrinking

The Forum's latest research on K-12 education finds the region’s racial achievement gap on state reading and math tests has remained virtually constant over the past five years, as has the statewide achievement gap.

As previously noted on this blog, on the national NAEP test Wisconsin is the only state to have a growing achievement gap. That the state and the region are also unable to shrink the gap on state tests reflects a persistent pattern.

The new report indicates, for example, that 85.8% of the region’s white 4th grade students performed at a proficient or advanced level in reading during the 2004-05 school year, compared to 58.8% of African-American 4th graders. Five years later, more (89.4%) of the region’s white 8th graders were proficient or advanced in reading, while African-American reading proficiency remained at 58.8%.

Similarly, the region’s math achievement gap over the past five years grew slightly, although both white and African-American math proficiency improved during that time. The statewide reading and math achievement gaps also grew slightly from 2004-05.

While most of the region's African-American students are enrolled in the Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha school districts, the gaps in those districts are not as wide as in some others in the region. However, the smaller gaps in these three urban districts are due to the lower scores of the white students in those districts, rather than higher African-American scores.

The Forum’s schooling report was funded by Cardinal Stritch University, Multiple Listing Service, Northwestern Mutual, Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, Stifel Nicolaus, and the Waukesha County Technical College. A copy can be downloaded at the Forum’s web site,

Anneliese Dickman