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‘Terrible data’ on black boys in California show the need to break down state test scores by gender, advocate says

Mike Szymanski | June 2, 2017



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A new data analysis of California test scores has revealed that three out of four black boys don’t meet state reading standards.

The data analysis and article published Wednesday by the nonprofit news organization CALmatters provides a deep dive look at how gender interacts with race on the state tests.

It found that:

  • Girls have a sizable lead over boys in the language arts, regardless of race or economic status
  • Black boys struggle with test scores at an earlier age
  • Of all ethnic groups for which the state collects data, black boys trailed black girls by the widest margin.

CALmatters broke the data down by gender, something the state and most school districts, including LA Unified, don’t do. Some activists are calling for the data to be posted by gender in order to better solve the problems behind the gaps.

“The terrible data show the need to disaggregate all California’s data by both race and gender,” Ryan J. Smith told LA School Report on Friday. He’s executive director of The Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based nonprofit working to close the achievement gaps for students of color and low-income students. “If we had those same outcomes for young white men, policymakers would call a state of emergency. However, where’s the outrage on behalf of these students? Is our belief so low for black boys that they no longer deserve the right to a quality education in California?”

Smith said his group will soon release a report titled “Hear My Voice: Strengthening the College Pipeline for Young Men of Color in California” that will also address these issues and reasons behind the gap. It is a follow-up to their 2015 report “Black Minds Matter.”

LA Unified doesn’t break down test scores by gender, but data released last fall show that blacks in LA also trail their counterparts statewide in English language arts.

At LA Unified, 28 percent of African-American students met or exceeded the English standards on last year’s Smarter Balanced tests, compared with 31 percent in the state.

Blacks make up 5.8 percent of students statewide and 8.4 percent in LA Unified.

Latino students in California fared significantly better than blacks, with 37 percent meeting English standards. In LA Unified, where they make up three-quarters of students, 33 percent met English standards.

Two-thirds of white students in LA met English standards last year.

The CALmatters data showed Latino boys lagged Latino girls as well. In the state, 32 percent of Latino boys were proficient readers, a full 10 percentage points behind girls. Latino girls also topped black girls: 42 percent of Latino girls were proficient, compared to 38 percent of black girls.

CALmatters used California Department of Education statistics that showed more than half of the black boys in the state scored in the lowest category of English, trailing girls and marking a disparity that “reflects a stubbornly persistent gender gap in reading and writing scores that stretches across ethnic groups.”

You can peruse CALmatters’ data here, which include breakdowns in a dozen racial and other categories.

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