The results, broken down by state, also reflect a national shift in the achievement gap between black and white students. Whereas, historically, the discrepancies were largest in Southern states, the new report shows black students narrowing the achievement gap in these areas. "There is something to be said about some of the improvements that are happening in some of these Southern states that results in a narrowing of the gap," Carr noted.
Instead, the achievement gaps seem to be growing in Northern and Midwestern states, such as Nebraska, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where black achievement has declined or grown more slowly than white achievement.
Warren Smith, vice president of the Washington State Board of Education and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, was hesitant to draw any conclusions about the regional distribution of the achievement gap. "There are certain things that are consistent, regardless to the geographical location," he said. "Inequitable distribution of skilled, experienced teachers, insufficient and inequitable school funding, institutional racism, and several other things and that's consistent across the board."
The report does not presume to infer why disparities exist in certain states. It does, however, point out that children living in poverty have lower scores.
"This report makes clear that schools matter and when schools serving children of color are primarily staffed by less experienced, less effective teachers, the effects are tragic," Duncan said. "The children most in need of great teaching to accelerate their learning are not being served adequately and, in many cases, they are being denied their civil right to an education that prepares them to graduate high school prepared for college and careers."