S.F.’s Black Students Lag Far Behind Whites

Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, August 15,, 2008

San Francisco schools earned bragging rights on state standardized tests again this year—performing better than the state as a whole across every grade in both math and English—but any celebration was clouded by the subpar proficiency of the district’s African American students, who continued to fall further behind their peers.

Nearly all other categories of San Francisco students, regardless of ethnicity, income or English language ability, outscored the city’s black students in California Standards Test results posted Thursday.

On the plus side, the scores of black students did go up about 1 percentage point in math proficiency and nearly 1 percentage point in English.

But that wasn’t as much as everyone else, meaning the achievement gap in San Francisco got worse.

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The number of white students who were proficient or better in both math and English was about 50 percentage points higher than the city’s black students. In second-grade English, for example, 23 percent of blacks were proficient, compared to 74 percent of whites.

Special education students had slightly higher proficiency rates than black students in second-, third- and fourth-grade math as well as fourth-grade English.

The district tested 41,000 students, including 4,800 African Americans, in grades two through 11 in the spring.

San Francisco schools face a steep uphill battle in boosting the test results of black students, educators noted.

The test results are not surprising, said Omar Khalif, ombudsman for the city’s Juvenile Probation Department and an advocate for education and children’s issues. Khalif, who is running for a seat on the school board in November’s election, said black students often face obstacles tied to neighborhood poverty, crime and broken families.

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The San Francisco school board adopted a plan this year to identify schools where the achievement gap is widening. Those closing the gap will also be recognized and modeled.

Also, city voters in June approved a school parcel tax to raise an estimated $29 million annually, boosting teacher salaries, training staff on the needs of disadvantaged students, and providing incentives to teach in hard-to-staff schools—where students are more often than not black, Hispanic and poor.

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