Achievement Gaps Widen for California’s Black and Latino Students

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2015

For more than a decade, state educators have focused on helping black and Latino students perform as well in school as their white and Asian peers, calling the issue a social and economic imperative.

Data from a more difficult, new state testing system suggest that they still have a long way to go.

The new wave of tests, given in California and elsewhere, provide a more accurate gauge of academic skills, according to experts who support the system. If they are right, then the problem facing black and Latino students, which already was considered serious, is of greater magnitude.

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Although scores declined for all students, blacks and Latinos saw significantly greater drops than whites and Asians, widening the already large gap that was evident in results from earlier years, according to a Times analysis.

Under the previous test, last given to public school students two years ago, the gap separating Asian and black students was 35 percentage points in English. The gap increased to 44 percentage points under the new test. Asian students’ results dropped the least on the new tests, which widened the gap between them and those who are white, black or Latino, the analysis showed.

White students also maintained higher relative scores than their black and Latino peers.

{snip} In the last decade, all ethnic groups made significant academic gains compared to where their scores started. But the gap separating the scores of blacks and Latinos from whites and Asians changed little.

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The results of the new tests should sound an alarm, if one was needed, said Bill Lucia, of the Sacramento-based advocacy group EdVoice. “There’s a problem and it’s not, per se, the test,” Lucia said. “There is something going on here when you talk about the difference in the size of the gap, particularly in math.”

In that subject, 69% of Asian students achieved the state targets compared to 49% of whites, 21% of Latinos and 16% of blacks.

Although even Asian students have room to improve, their relative performance stood out. In math, the percentage of Asians who met state targets declined 12%. White students went down 21%, Latinos 50%, black students 54%. More than half the students who took the test were Latino.

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L.A. Unified, which enrolls a majority of low-income, minority students, fared much worse overall. Achievement gaps widened less in L.A. Unified than in the state as a whole but that’s largely because its white and Asian students declined more, according to the analysis.

In L.A. Unified, 67% of Asian students met state targets in English, compared to 61% of white students, 27% of Latinos and 24% of black students.

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