Latinos Struggle to Close Gap with Whites in California ACT Scores

Joy Resmovitis, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2015

A performance gap on the ACT college entrance exam persisted this year between California’s Latino and white high school students, according to new test results.

Educators and experts find this trend particularly concerning. They had hoped for better results from the relatively small segment of test takers who are largely a self-selected group of students who are motivated to get to college.

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Across the country, the class of 2015 stagnated, with 40% of the 1.9 million test takers showing what the organization calls “strong readiness,” according to results released Wednesday.

In California, 30% of the class of 2015 took the test.

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The gap between Latino and white students has remained since at least 2011.

In 2011, 25% of Latino students met three or more ACT targets, compared to 69% of white students. In 2015, 28% of Latino students met three or more, compared to 70% of whites–representing a continuous gap of more than 40 percentage points.

The ethnic breakdown of test takers is not precisely the same as the state’s: nearly 28% of test takers were white, and about 38% were Latino. According to census data, California’s population between the ages of 18 and 24 is 31% white and 47% Latino.

In all four subject areas, English, reading, math and science, the difference between the percentage of white and Latino students meeting ACT benchmarks ranged from 37 to 39 percentage points.

Chart

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Poverty can have a profound effect on education–but income inequality by itself does not explain educational disparities, according to Ryan Smith, the executive director of Education Trust-West.

“Race does play a factor in student achievement. It’s not just an issue of class,” Smith said. “It’s a conversation that is lacking, particularly among education leaders.”

“My national concern is that those gaps aren’t closing rapidly,” Erickson said. “I’d say the same thing for California. I was hoping to see those gaps narrow, and it’s pretty much been stable.”

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The ACT defines college readiness as the minimum score a student must achieve to have a 75% chance of earning a C or higher, or a 50% chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course.

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