Journal Article: Closing the Mathematics Achievement Gap in High-Poverty Middle Schools: Enablers and Constraints


Mathematics Achievement, Middle Schools, Poverty


Balfanz, Robert; Byrnes, Vaughan




The mathematics achievement levels of U.S. students fall far behind those of other developed nations; within the United States itself, the students who are falling behind come predominantly from high-poverty and high-minority areas. This article reports on a series of analyses that followed 4 cohorts of students from 3 such schools through the 5th to 8th grades, where studies have found the mathematics achievement gap to develop most rapidly. The cohorts followed in these analyses attended schools implementing whole-school reform models that incorporated research-based, proven curricula, subject-specific teacher training and professional development, multiple layers of teacher and classroom support, and school climate reforms. The research found that students at schools implementing the whole-school reform (WSR) models made greater progress in closing the mathematics achievement gap than at the other 23 high-poverty, high-minority schools in their district. Using the results from a Binary Logistic Regression model, we show which factors were key in enabling or constraining a student's ability to close the achievement gap during the middle school years. We conclude that various student-, classroom-, and school-level factors are all key in helping students to close the gap. WSR models, while often time- and cost-intensive, address issues at all of these levels and may be more able to affect the achievement gap than other, more simply implemented reforms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA ) (journal abstract)


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