White students test proficient at nearly double the rate of Black students regardless of income.

Let's Break It Down

Higher income students in both Iowa and Nebraska test proficient at higher rates than their lower income peers.

Douglas and Sarpy County schools use statewide assessment tests (NeSA) to measure for math proficiency. There is a significant disparity in test scores between race and ethnicities, regardless of socioeconomic status. Low-income White students (those who receive a free or reduced lunch, FRL) and students of color in higher income families are testing proficient at similar rates. In addition, a disparity based on income levels exists. Students who receive a free or reduced lunch test proficient at rates two to four times lower than students from higher income homes.

Pottawattamie Schools utilize the Iowa Assessment Tests in math and reading to annually test for proficiency. The disparity in test scores between races has decreased since 2010. The range in proficiency rates narrowed by 9% between 2010 and 2014. Students who receive a free or reduced lunch have consistently tested proficient about 10% lower than all students.

It’s also important to consider these findings over time to understand how our schools are trending. While there are disparities based on socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity, proficiency rates are improving in local schools.

Eighth Grade Math in Douglas & Sarpy County

Eighth Grade Math in Pottawattamie County

Why Does It Matter?

Eighth grade math classes are a crucial foundation to success in high school and college.

Eighth grade is an important transition year to prepare students for high school. As students are moving from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and then high school to post-secondary school, they need to be ready to build on what they have previously learned to take on the next level of their education. Without those foundations, students quickly fall behind.

Eighth grade students typically take algebra, which is the foundation for higher level math classes. Without a solid understanding of algebra, a student is neither prepared nor able to be successful in subsequent math classes. Further, a student’s ability to successfully complete math coursework predicts the time spent on remedial coursework in post-secondary education. One study estimated that Bachelor’s level students who had to take a remedial course were 74% more likely to drop out. Remedial coursework can be a barrier to finishing post-secondary degrees

There are also many environmental factors that impact a student’s ability to be successful in school. If they are coming to school hungry or worried about the safety of themselves or family members, their ability to concentrate is compromised making it difficult to learn. Additionally, students who are constantly moving due to unstable housing—and thus transferring from school to school—may struggle. These stress factors can significantly impact a child’s ability to be successful in school.

How Do We Compare?

Local 8th grade math proficiency rates are above the national average.

According to the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), in 2015, 43% of White, 13% of Black, and 19% of Hispanic students tested proficient in 8th grade math. Proficiency rates for Pottawattamie, Sarpy, and Douglas Counties are higher than these national averages. When looking at students who receive a free or reduced lunch, 18% tested proficient, lower than Pottawattamie County test scores and Learning Community test scores regardless of race.

Data Source: Nebraska Department of Education, Iowa Department of Education, National Assessment for Educational Progress


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