Black-White Achievement Gap Persists in Schools Here

Todd C. Frankel and David Hunn, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 26, 2009

The academic achievement gap between black and white public school students in St. Louis and St. Louis County remains stubbornly wide, according to a study released Sunday.

At 25 school districts, black students again scored lower than white students on last year’s state standardized tests, says the fourth-annual report from the St. Louis Black Leadership Roundtable, which aims to eliminate the disparity between black and white student achievement.

The gap generally widened among elementary and high school students from 2007 to 2008. The gap shrunk only in middle schools.

But among all students, an annual index for measuring the gap grew by less than 1 percent.

Charles R. Saulsberry, vice chairman of the roundtable, said he was encouraged that the overall achievement gap seems to have stabilized.

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The report examined Missouri Assessment Program scores in mathematics and communication arts. It broke out scores among whites and blacks, but not other racial groups.

Another sign of stabilization came in the elementary and middle school scores, where the gap has increased or decreased by just a few points over the past three years. And among middle school communication arts scores, the gap shrunk by more than 10 percent since the 2006 test.

High school scores, however, were not as rosy in this year’s study. The gap in communication arts scores increased by 14 percent from the prior year. Math increased by 11 percent.

Also, the study listed some of the most respected area districts–Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Brentwood, Parkway, Clayton–as having some of the widest gaps between scores.

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The study is called the “2008 Regional Report Card: Eliminating the African American Academic Achievement Gap.”

Tony Thompson, president of Kwame Building Group, said the local achievement gap is part of a broader problem involving how American students are falling behind students in other countries.

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