This study estimates the typical grade-to-grade learning achievement in the United States of different type of students (race/ethnicity, gender, LEP status, disadvantaged) from pre-K through grade 3 with the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS) and from grade 8 through grade 12 with the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS). We specifically focus on differences in learning rates for different students at different grade levels. The study commissioned by the National Center for Education Statistics was intended to provide benchmarks for learning gains and to suggest what effects might be reasonably expected from interventions. Not surprisingly, the study shows large gaps in learning levels and learning rates across different subgroups of students. Achievement gaps exist at the start of kindergarten, typically increase across the first few grades, then become more stable in later years. Given these findings, we suspect that interventions targeted at early grades may produce a "bigger bang for the buck" than interventions targeted for later grades.
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