Here are most of the country’s thousands of school districts on a common scale, showing the average difference in 3rd-8th grade test scores between black and white students in each district.
The overwhelming majority of districts have a positive test score gap, with the average district gap of around 2/3 of a standard deviation.
These gaps are larger where the average test score in the district is higher– the better the average student is doing the further behind the average black student is:
You can show this graph a different way- what is the approximate percentile of a black student in the district, for higher performing and lower performing districts?
This looks to me like a major and underdiscussed problem for deliberate racial integration programs (what used to be called busing.) As everybody knows, there are already considerable hurdles to go through for families to settle in well-off school districts with high performing schools. As a result, the black families who are already in high-achieving districts are already considerably selected for characteristics correlated with high achievement. But the average racial gap in those districts is larger, and the average black student’s performance within the district is relatively (in comparison with other district students) lower, than in the nation as a whole. Any kind of deliberate program of school integration is going to take students and families who are less selected for high achievement than the students and families who already on their own recognizance made it into high achieving districts. This means you’re exaggerating within-district racial achievement gaps that are already much larger than the gaps in the nation as a whole. At some point, my guess is that peer effects start working in reverse- rather than being “pulled up” by contact with higher achieving peers, the huge gulfs in achievement intensify the sense of two separate and unbridgeable academic castes. This looks already to be occurring in some of the districts with the very largest gaps in the country , otherwise well-functioning college towns like Berkeley and Chapel Hill: