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Latino students lag far behind whites in every county in California, new study shows

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | November 6, 2017

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(Photo courtesy of the EdTrust report.)

There is not a single county in California where the majority of Latino students are proficient in math or English language arts, according to a report released Monday.

The report, by The Education Trust–West, looked at this year’s state test scores and compared the difference between Latino students and white students who met state standards.

In Los Angeles County, the percentage of Latino students who were proficient in math was less than half the percentage of white students who were proficient. There was a difference of 30 percentage points between Latinos (27 were proficient) and white students (57 percent).

In LA County in English language arts, 39 percent of Latinos met or exceeded state standards, while 68 percent of white students did — making a gap of 29 percentage points.

The counties of Ventura and Orange had even higher gaps.

In Ventura County, the gap was 36 percentage points, and in Orange County it was 35 percentage points.

In LA Unified this year, Latinos posted almost no growth on state tests and remained below the district’s average. In math, 24 percent were proficient, and 34 percent were proficient in English.

Latinos statewide posted no growth on this year’s state tests — 17 percent were proficient in math, slightly lower than in 2016, and 26 percent were proficient in English.

Latino students represent the majority enrolled in California’s public schools. Of the 6 million students who attend California public schools in kindergarten through 12th grade, just over half — 3,360,562 million (54 percent) — are Latino.

“Students will never truly succeed in a system that believes they are destined to fail,” Ryan Smith, executive director of The Education Trust—West, said in a statement. “What does it say about California’s priorities when our education system doesn’t adequately support a student group that constitutes the majority of the youth in our schools? The data show that decisions adults make are denying these students their civil right to an equal education.”

The report, “The Majority Report: Supporting the Educational Success of Latino Students in California,” includes an interactive map of all California counties’ achievement gaps.

 According to the report, these are the challenges California’s Latino students face:

  • Attend the nation’s most segregated schools
  • Are often tracked away from college-preparatory coursework
  • Are sometimes perceived as less academically capable than their white or Asian peers
  • Have insufficient access to early childhood education
  • Are less likely to feel connected to their school environment
  • Are more likely to be required to take remedial courses at colleges and universities.

San Francisco had the largest achievement gap between Latino and white students on the most recent math assessments. The top four counties with the largest gaps in math were all in the Bay Area. The English gaps were similar.

The report concludes that failing to offer a high-quality education to Latino students “means failing to prepare the future leaders who will fuel our state’s economy, strengthen our communities, and maintain our state’s cultures, traditions, and values.”

“One out of every two youth under the age of 25 in California is Latino,” Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of The Latino Community Foundation, said in the statement. “They are the future workforce of the Golden State — and the nation. Investing in the academic success of Latino students is imperative for the state’s economic growth and the country’s ability to maintain a global competitive edge.”

The report includes what some districts are doing to close the achievement gap for Latino students and cited LA Unified as an example of how using a “culturally inclusive curriculum” by making ethnic studies a graduation requirement helps engage Latino students.

The report states that “all LAUSD students, Latino or otherwise, receive a high school diploma only after gaining a foundational understanding of the experiences of Latino and other people of color.”

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