Santa Monica College Social Problem Is Crime Paper

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Example from teacher:

Research Question:

How do racial/ethnic achievement gaps in test scores differ among different geographical areas and in different school districts?

Fitting into Past Research:

Past research has shown that there are large gaps in the scores between racial and ethnic groups.  black and Hispanic students consistently show an achievement gap when compared to white students.  This study uses more specific data than past studies and looks at a much smaller scale.  It examines several thousand school districts to see how much variation there is in the achievement gap.  It also looks at what characteristics are correlated with those gaps.  This will allow future researchers to begin to understand why the gap is higher in some places and lower in others, which might help us to make changes to eliminate or lessen the gap.

Research Methods:

They used data from standardized tests.  They looked at the rate of proficiency for black, white, and Hispanic students on those tests within school districts and within metropolitan areas.  They only studies school districts where there were enough students in each category to make a good, statistical comparison.  They then compared the achievement gap to certain characteristics within the district and geographical area to discover patterns.  


They found that there is a lot of variation in the achievement gap, and this seems to be happening at the local level. The achievement gap is always present though, there is no where that black/Hispanic students score equally to white students.  The variable that explains the gap the most is racial differences in socioeconomic status.  Since minority students tend to be poorer than white students, that explains a good amount of the racial achievement gap.  Even when controlling for that though there are other characteristics that are important.  One variable here is that richer areas tend to have a higher gap.  Another important variable is segregation.  In areas where there is more segregation (white and minority students attend different schools) the racial achievement gap is much larger.  

What I Learned:

Throughout the country, black and Hispanic students score lower on standardized tests than white students.  Part of this is explained by how rich or poor the students are, but some of it comes from other factors, like how segregated the schools in the area are.  

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