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Test scores show wide achievement gap for black and Latino kids

Craig Clough | September 10, 2015

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Social Justice Humanitas Academy studentThere wasn’t a lot of good news for LA Unified in the Smarter Balanced test results, which show that the district performed well under the statewide average. Among the poor news was the continuation of a drastic achievement gap between the district’s white students and its black and Latino students.

However, if there is one piece of gold in the rubble, it is that the district’s black and Latino students were basically even in performance with the statewide average of black and Latino students, give or take a few percentage points depending on the category.

Sixty-one percent of the district’s white students met or exceeded the standards in English, and 52 met or exceeded the standard in math. This compares with 24 percent of the black students and 27 percent of Latino students who met or exceeded the standards in English, and 15 percent of black students and 19 percent of Latino students who met or exceeded the standard in math.

Statewide, the average for all students was 44 percent meeting or exceeding English standards and 33 percent meeting or exceeding the math standard. LA Unifed’s racial demographics is 74 percent Latino, 9.8 percent white, 8.4 percent black, and 6 percent Asian.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson pointed to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) as the main way the state can work at closing the racial achievement gap. The LCFF first went into effect for the 2013-14 school year and is intended to drive extra money toward students who are English learners, eligible to receive a free or reduced-price meals or foster youth.

“Clearly, we must continue working to eliminate these gaps,” Torlakson said in a statement. “Much work needs to be done, but we are moving in the right direction with our efforts to provide extra resources and services for students and schools with the greatest needs.”

The Smarter Balanced test is aligned with the new Common Core standards and its scores are not comparable to the old API scores, officials have stressed, but Cynthia Lim, LA Unified’s executive director of the office of Data and Accountability, conceded that the gaps remain regardless of what test is being administered.

“I think we still see the achievement gaps that we had in the old test,” Lim said in a phone call with reporters. “I don’t think that the achievement gaps went away because we have a new test. I think we see the same patterns that we had in the past.”

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