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Clive Belfield, (917) 821-9219,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Review finds achievement gap report makes sense economically

Cites need for more calculations

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Dec. 4, 2014) – A recently released report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) claimed that closing racial and ethnic achievement gaps would have substantial economic benefits, including raising incomes and the size of the economy. The gains would result from higher levels of student achievement and specifically from higher achievement by minority students. However, despite being persuasive, an academic review finds that the report does not incorporate enough detail to justify the claims.

Clive Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), reviewed The Economic Benefits of Closing Education Achievement Gaps for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Professor Belfield is an Economist specializing in resource allocation and cost-effectiveness.

The report estimates that if Black and Hispanic high school math scores converged to equal those of white high school students, the size of the U.S. economy would increase by $20 trillion.  Additionally, federal and state/local tax revenues would increase as a result.

In his review, Belfield says, "the report does not include much detail concerning specific calculations, and does not check the accuracy of its estimates."

Moreover, he finds that the report: (1) relies on a single study, and that study has limitations; and (2) implies a very powerful role for cognitive skills (test scores) over behaviors.

Regarding the report's use of research literature, Belfield finds that the report does a good job of highlighting key trends from the data and identifying important studies.

In reviewing the report's methods, Belfield asserts that, despite being straightforward, the association between achievement and economic growth most likely cannot be estimated with the certainty that the report implies.

According to Belfield, "the report does not provide enough detail for readers to see how big the efficiency gains are, and readers are asked to accept that closing achievement gaps – rather than raising graduation rates or enhancing socioemotional skills – will lead to the biggest economic pay-off."

In his conclusion, Belfield affirms that despite being helpful to policymakers, a closer look at the economic models would be useful for deciding how much investment is needed for long-term improvements.

Read the full review at:

Find The Economic Benefits of Closing Educational Achievement Gaps on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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