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Postsecondary Readiness
International Competitiveness

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State Performance
Academic
Achievement
Postsecondary
Readiness
International
Competitiveness
State 4th Grade Math 4th Grade Reading 8th Grade Math 8th Grade Reading Graduation Rate % Scoring College-Ready on ACT AP Passage Rate Remedial Coursework Enrollment Remedial Coursework Success Gateway Success AP STEM Passage Rate AP World Language Passage Rate
Alabama 10% 15% 5% 12% 74% 3% 3.6% 1.4% 0.1%
Alaska 14% 25% 17% 14% 65% 8% 4.7% 3.3% ***
Arizona 32% 27% 19% 19% 70% 8% 6.5% 2.5% 0.4%
Arkansas 15% 17% 10% 8% 78% 4% 4.4% 75% 50% 17% 1.5% 0.1%
California 18% 14% 14% 16% 68% 13% 11.8% 24% 41% 7% 4.7% 0.9%
Colorado 21% 27% 15% 20% 70% 9% 13.9% 56% 44% 5.9% 1.1%
Connecticut 13% 15% 12% 20% 76% 15% 9.9% 65% 57% 16% 4.2% 0.6%
Delaware 19% 21% 13% 16% 76% 11% 5.8% 2.1% 0.4%
District of Columbia 20% 18% 13% 12% 61% 8% 6.5% 61% DS DS 1.3% 0.4%
Florida 21% 20% 11% 15% 65% 6% 12.1% 74% 63% 23% 3.3% 1.2%
Georgia 19% 22% 13% 15% 64% 7% 8.1% 51% 43% 22% 2.7% 0.4%
Hawaii 23% 75% 10% 16.0% 53% DS DS 5% ***
Idaho * 14% 14.2% DS DS DS 4.2% ***
Illinois 12% 15% 12% 13% 71% 6% 7.0% 56% 57% 12% 2% 0.5%
Indiana 22% 22% 10% 19% 74% 6% 6.2% 63% 52% 11% 2.4% 0.3%
Iowa 18% 14% 8% 13% 74% 10% 5.4% 2.2% 0.4%
Kansas 14% 15% 13% 14% 76% 8% 4.8% 1.6% 0.4%
Kentucky 20% 23% 12% 15% 78% 5% 6.3% 67% 32% 16% 2% 0.4%
Louisiana 16% 17% 7% 12% 66% 4% 1.8% 57% 39% 5% 0.5% 0.1%
Maine 18% 14% 16% 75% 13% 11.7% 4.5% ***
Maryland 21% 18% 14% 19% 78% 11% 11.6% 67% 39% 18% 4.3% 0.9%
Massachusetts 26% 25% 22% 18% 74% 17% 12.1% 68% 56% 20% 5.4% 1.9%
Michigan 10% 9% 5% 9% 61% 4% 3.3% 1.2% 0.2%
Minnesota 25% 16% 14% 16% 58% 10% 8.7% 3.2% 0.3%
Mississippi 15% 14% 10% 8% 70% 3% 1.2% 59% 64% 29% 0.4% 0%
Missouri 15% 15% 11% 14% 72% 6% 2.7% 68% 33% 12% 0.7% 0.1%
Montana 77% 7% 14.1% 29% DS DS 4.7% ***
Nebraska 12% 22% 13% 14% 77% 6% 3.6% 1.4% 0.7%
Nevada 15% 14% 8% 16% 57% 8% 9.9% 54% 63% 20% 4% 0.2%
New Hampshire 82% 37% 3.8% 1.2% ***
New Jersey 21% 22% 20% 20% 76% 11% 6.5% 3% 0.5%
New Mexico 69% 15% 8.0% 50% 61% 17% 3.4% 0.5%
New York 14% 18% 15% 17% 63% 17% 8.9% 4% 0.7%
North Carolina 22% 23% 16% 13% 78% 4% 6.0% 2.3% 0.3
North Dakota 24% 21% 17% 15% 80% 4% 3.5% 1.5% ***
Ohio 12% 16% 11% 14% 63% 7% 5.1% 69% 30% 14% 1.7% 0.4%
Oklahoma 15% 17% 8% 9% 77% 6% 4.3% 72% 45% 15% 1.2% ***
Oregon 17% 57% 9% 8.0% 37% 58% 12% 2.4% ***
Pennsylvania 15% 17% 8% 13% 73% 8% 4.1% 28% 85% 77% 1.4% 0.4%
Rhode Island 17% 27% 14% 15% 72% 12% 4.0% 73% 55% DS 1.7% 0.4%
South Carolina 16% 15% 8% 11% 75% 4% 5.3% 2.1% 0.1%
South Dakota 11% 15% 23% 72% 11% 4.6% 66% DS DS 3.1% ***
Tennessee 20% 16% 9% 15% 78% 4% 3.7% 50% 35% 9% 1.1% 0.3%
Texas 29% 17% 16% 19% 84% 8% 8.6% 56% 37% 16% 3.3% 0.4%
Utah 70% 6% 14.5% 31% DS DS 4.8% ***
Vermont 73% 13% 9.2% 3.8% 2.3%
Virginia 25% 19% 12% 16% 77% 11% 10.6% 3.7% 0.7%
Washington 24% 25% 13% 22% 66% 8% 10.5% 3.4% 0.6%
West Virginia 11% 21% 8% 20% 75% 6% 4.5% 53% 29% DS 0.7% -
Wisconsin 13% 11% 7% 10% 66% 5% 4.3% 63% 57% NR 1.2% 0.3%
Wyoming 66% 8% 6.6% DS DS DS *** -
Nat'l Average - All Students 40% 36% 33% 34% 81% 21.6%
Nat'l Average - African-American Students 19% 18% 13% 16% 71% 7.2% 2.6% 0.5%

Introduction

In July 2000, while still on the presidential campaign trail, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush addressed the 91st annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention. During his speech, he spoke about how as president he would work to bridge historical divides in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our social institutions that have separated American citizens from one another.

In making his case, Bush said his goal was to dispel the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” a phrase that would follow him for his entire presidency and would live on after he left the White House. Specifically, the Bush administration worked to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002, which for the first time held every school in the nation accountable for how well all students achieved. The Obama administration built on these efforts through Race to the Top, which encouraged states to evaluate teachers, adopt college- and career-ready standards, and open more charter schools. These federal efforts, paired with decades of work at the state and local levels, represent an extended, concerted effort to improve education for all students, and an unprecedented opportunity to discover weaknesses and focus efforts to improve on the academic performance of students of color.

But the struggle continues.

To be certain, all states and all student sub-groups are performing at a level that should spur us to action—it is not only African-American student performance that should raise concern. The purpose of this report, however, is to offer a portrait of the performance of African-American students in the United States today. How successful have interventions to improve the quality of education been? In what areas are African-American students succeeding? In what areas are they struggling? In what areas are there opportunities that passionate leaders can take advantage of to improve the lives of African-American children?

Over the past 25 years, the performance of African-American students on key academic success indicators has improved, in some cases markedly. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an exam given to a representative sample of students every two years since the 1970s, the percentages of African-American students deemed proficient in fourth and eighth grade reading and math have increased significantly. Graduation rates for African-American students are up as well, and the nationwide average of 71% represents significant progress. It could be inferred that many of these improvements follow from NCLB’s stricter accountability standards. The requirement that states set academic achievement goals for sub-group populations, disaggregate data to bring shortcomings to light, and intervene when goals are not met remains groundbreaking. Accountability can do wonders for motivation.

In absolute terms, though, there is much more room for improvement. On the 2015 NAEP, only 18% of African-American fourth graders were found to be proficient in reading and only 19% scored proficient in math. The eighth grade numbers were even worse, with only 16% of African-American students rated proficient in reading and only 13% rated proficient in math. Only three states saw more than 5% of the African-Americans in their graduating class pass at least one Advanced Placement (AP) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) exam during high school, and four states saw less than 1% of African-American students graduate having passed one of these exams. No state with at least 500 African-American ACT (American College Testing) test-takers saw more than 17% score college-ready on all four tested subjects.

It is easy to look at this report and despair. It puts front and center the fact that too many of our nation’s young people are failing to achieve their potential, and that African-American students are disproportionately impacted by the shortcomings in our education system. We need to continue to constantly strive for improvements and identify solutions that work well for students. We can use the information contained in this report to continue making the case for changes that will benefit all students.

Many company-, state-, and community-based programs are targeting low-income students and students of color to provide mentoriship support and increase interest in high-demand areas such as STEM. To find the right solutions for a region or a school, we need to understand how well states are advancing educational equity, and put the pedal to the metal on opening up opportunities and capitalize on efforts that demonstrate results. Like most issues in education reform, it is unlikely that there is a silver bullet or one-size-fits-all approach that will work across the board. However, there are elements of promising programs that could be a “fit” in your community. Samplings of these programs are included in the report to showcase how to get results and expand opportunities for students of color.

By staying the course on accountability, promoting school choice, working with industry, and focusing on students in the greatest need, we can work to turn around these distressing numbers in ways that will significantly benefit African-American students who deserve a high-quality education experience that will prepare them for the path forward.

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