Skip To ContentSkip To Content
    Stanford Analysis Reveals High Growth but Large Achievement Gaps for Seattle
    Posted on 05/16/2018

    Released as a follow-up to a 2016 analysis, the Stanford Study includes state test score data for more than 11,000 districts from 2009 to 2015. While tests from different states typically cannot be easily compared to each other, researchers used the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as a common data point across states. The NAEP is administered to a representative sample of students in every state, which allowed the researchers to use those results to convert the state ELA and math test scores into grade-level equivalent (GLE) scores for student groups in each district by year and grade level. This novel approach allows for a direct comparison of district performance across the nation and provides unique insights into student growth and achievement gaps from 3rd through 8th grade.

    The Seattle gap starts early. The Stanford data reveals that the white-black achievement gap in Seattle is 3.7 grade levels in 3rd grade, with the typical white student scoring roughly 2.2 years above grade level and typical African American student scoring roughly 1.5 years below grade level. On this measure, white students in Seattle have the 9th highest grade level in 3rd grade among the 200 largest districts in the nation, while African American students in Seattle rank 149th nationwide. According to Stanford researcher Sean Reardon, these third grade scores should be interpreted as reflecting all early educational opportunities from birth to age 9.  The scores are influenced by factors including access to childcare and preschool, family socioeconomic factors, community conditions, and school quality from kindergarten to grade 3.

    The growth achieved by Seattle students in 3rd through 8th grade is consistently high for all reported student groups, relative to other large districts.  For all student groups included in the analysis, SPS students achieved higher than average growth from 3rd through 8th grade. On average, Seattle students achieved 5.7 years of growth over five years (3rd highest of the 200 largest districts), with white and African American students achieving 5.4 years of growth each (ranked 39th and 14th, respectively). Hispanic and Asian students demonstrated the largest growth, at 5.9 years (5th of 200) and 6.5 years (7th of 200), respectively. Despite these comparatively high levels of growth, similar growth for white and African American students means that the achievement gap in 3rd grade remains high through 8th grade.

    How many grade levels of growth did Seattle Public Schools students achieve in five years?

    Higher growth by SPS students may be due in large part to school quality. What explains the higher growth rates in the late elementary and middle grades for Seattle Public Schools and other high-growth districts? According to Stanford researcher Sean Reardon, the growth measure produced in the Stanford analysis is not as strongly correlated with socioeconomic status as 3rd grade performance levels. Many wealthier districts and student groups experience low levels of growth and many poorer districts experience high growth. This, along with the fact that children spend such a large percentage of their time in school during these years, leads Reardon to suggest that higher growth achieved in some districts “may depend in large part on the quality of local elementary and middle schools.”

    Stanford Education Data Archive: https://cepa.stanford.edu/seda/overview

    Stanford Study: http://purl.stanford.edu/db586ns4974