Achivement Gap Persists in California

While Latinos make up the majority of California’s public school students, they continue to lag white students on academic achievement measures.

California may have more experience working with Latino students than other states, but that hasn’t translated into better academic returns. The Associated Press points out that Hispanic students often attend poorly funded schools with larger class sizes and fewer academic courses.

The article notes that only about one out of every four Hispanic sophomores don’t pass the state’s high school exit exam, compared with one in 10 white students.

But there are some success stories. The AP reports that the agricultural area where the Sanger Unified School District is located is making progress with the children of migrant farmworkers are improving. The article notes that Sanger was once a failing district.

A report by the Bay Area Research Group found that the district began to improve after spending time on changing its culture — offering more teacher training, for example. The district created its own testing system to analyze the effectiveness of its instruction.

The study detailed how Sanger changed its culture, including going from following textbooks to addressing student needs and from professional isolation to collaboration.

What can we learn from California about what works for Latino students and what doesn’t?

Related Links:

“Latino Academic Achievement Gap Persists,” Associated Press.

“Farm Town Develops Education Success Formula,” Associated Press.

“Turning Around a High-Poverty School District: Learning from Sanger Unified’s Success,” Bay Area Research Group and Stanford University.

Urban School Districts Make Progress on National Exam

Students enrolled in school districts in some of the nation’s largest cities are making significant academic gains that sometimes even outpaced their peers elsewhere in the nation, according to new data.

Since 2002, the Trial Urban District Assessment has tracked student achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as America’s report card. The program has grown to encompass 21 urban school districts and tracks the performance of fourth- and eighth-graders in math and reading. The large districts surveyed volunteer to take part in testing.

According to the most recent data, between 2011 and 2013, fourth-graders from Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Atlanta recorded larger increases in scores in math than the national average. In L.A., Hispanic, black and white fourth-graders all saw improvements. However, L.A. lags other urban districts in overall performance.

Not all the news was positive. Fourth-graders in Houston schools experienced lower scores in reading. This was notable in a year that Houston was awarded the coveted Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The data may offer some telling information about your local school district. The districts profiled include many with large Hispanic populations, such as Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Fresno, Miami-Dade, Houston, New York City and others.

“The 2013 TUDA results show student performance in large cities continues to both improve overall and that large-city schools nationwide are improving at a faster pace than the nation as a whole,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “While we still have a lot of work to do to close achievement gaps in our largest cities, this progress is encouraging. It means that in 2013, tens of thousands of additional students in large cities are proficient or above in math and reading than was the case four years earlier.”

Related Links:

Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
“Urban Schools Improving Faster Than Rest of US,” Associated Press.
“NAEP Gains in D.C., Los Angeles Outpace Other Big Cities,” Education Week.

Various Factors Discourage Latino Students From AP Courses

Latino students may be discouraged from enrolling in Advanced Placement courses for a number of reasons.

Students’ perceptions can impact their decisions. They may have a lack of knowledge about the classes or have the impression that the classes will be too challenging.

Other factors are outside of students’ control: teachers and administrators may decide who is allowed–and not allowed– to enroll in such courses.

“Many teachers don’t truly believe that these programs are for all kids or that students of color or low-income kids can succeed in these classes,” Christina Theokas, director of research at The Education Trust, told the New York Times in an article on the subject.

Despite such discouragement, more Latino, black and low-income students are enrolling in AP courses than in the past.

There is criticism of the program, too. Some say AP courses have become watered down as more students have enrolled. Others question whether simply enrolling greater numbers of students in AP courses will make them perform any better in college.

If you are interested in delving further into data on Hispanic student performance, check out the College Board’s annual AP Report to the Nation.

In addition, you can also look into requesting data from your local school district on how many Hispanic students are enrolled in specific AP courses, and what their passing rates (generally considered a 3 or higher) are on the actual exam. Pay particular attention to how many students are taking AP courses in the areas of math and science.

Related Links:

“Pulling a More Diverse Group of Achievers Into the Advanced Placement Pool,” The New York Times.
9th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board.

NAEP Scores Detail Hispanic Student Performance

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made small gains in math and reading on the National Achievement of Educational Progress — known as the “Nation’s Report Card” — but achievement gaps remain a persistent problem.

The latest data released measured growth between 2011 and 2013.

Hispanic and black children still have not caught up to white children. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the achievement gaps are troubling, The Dallas Morning News reported. He used the opportunity to promote the expansion of preschool programs.

“The only way to significantly close the achievement gap is to stop playing catch-up (after students start regular classes) and increase access to early childhood education,” he said. “Why don’t we try fixing the problem before it begins?”

Hispanic fourth- and eighth-graders made progress in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress between 2011 and 2013, according to new data. Additionally, Hispanic eighth-graders scored higher in reading in 2013 than two years earlier.

You can access online data for more detailed performance data by state.

Related Links:

“U.S. Reading and Math Scores Show Slight Gains,” The New York Times.

“U.S. Students Show Incremental Progress on National Test,” The Washington Post.

“Texas Hispanic Students Lag in ‘Nation’s Report Card,'” The Dallas Morning News.

National Assessment of Educational Progress

SAT Scores Show Hispanics Lag in College Readiness

The SAT college entrance exam picture for Hispanic students is mixed, based on 2013 data released Thursday by the College Board.

Hispanics have increased to 17 percent of test takers. Yet only about 23.5 percent of Latino students were deemed college ready based on their scores, a slight increase over the prior year.

The overall national average is also frustrating. For the past five years, the overall average college readiness of test takers has hovered at 43 percent.

The board set a benchmark score of 1550 as the score, the score they say at which there is a 65 percent likelihood that a student will have a college freshman year GPA of B- or higher. The overall average score was 1498 out of a possible 2400.

Students who tested ready for college were more likely to have taken a core curriculum, AP courses, high-level math courses such as calculus, and be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

Hispanics tended to lag in being academically prepared for the SAT exam. Among Hispanics who took the SAT exam, about 70 percent took a core curriculum, 56 percent reported taking AP courses, and 36 percent reported that they had “A” average grades.

College Board officials continue to push to increase the participation rates of minority students. Their efforts are not without criticism. Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test told National Public Radio that the board’s efforts are a marketing ploy.

Reflecting the country’s shifting demographics, the Texas Education Agency reported that more Hispanic public school students took the exam than white students. There were 59,294 Hispanic students taking the exam and 58,307 white students. Hispanics already make up the majority of students attending Texas schools.

Also on Thursday, The New York Times reported on a new program being launched by the College Board that is seeking to motivate more minority and low-income students to apply to elite colleges and universities.

The board is sending information packets including application fee waivers to six colleges to 28,000 high school seniors with an SAT or PSAT score in the top 15 percent of people tested but the bottom quarter of income distribution.

Recent studies have shown that even high-performing Latino, black and low-income students do not apply to the competitive admission colleges that they are qualified to attend. The Times reported that a recent study by University of Virginia researchers found that providing more college information in mailed packets to low-income students influences college application decisions.

At the time, College Board President David Coleman told the Times, ““We can’t stand by as students, particularly low-income students, go off track and don’t pursue the opportunities they have earned.”

Related Links:

“2013 SAT Report on College & Career Readiness”
“College Board ‘Concerned’ About Low SAT Scores,” NPR.
“Record Number of Minorities Take SAT But Lag in College Readiness.”
“A Nudge to Poorer Students to Aim High on Colleges,” The New York Times.
“A Simple Way to Send Poor Kids to Top Colleges,” The New York Times.

Report: Latino Students in Rhode Island Struggling

Rhode Island may not be a state that comes immediately to mind when the challenges of Latino students are discussed.

But the state has a rapidly growing population, especially in its larger cities. While other states have large Mexican origin populations, Rhode Island tends to draw from other groups such as Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and Guatemalans.

A new report finds that the academic achievement gap between Latino and white students in Rhode Island is among the worst in the nation, and English Language Learners in particular are struggling mightily.

According to the study, about 22 percent of the state’s public school students are Latino, but only about 1.5 percent of teachers are Hispanic.  Latino students now are 63 percent of the student enrollment in Providence, 72 percent in Central Falls and a sizable number in Pawtucket. Additionally, on average Latinos in the state earn less than those elsewhere in the country.

The Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University released a report looking at Hispanic achievement in the state, entitled “Latino Students in Rhode Island: A Review of Local and National Performances.” 

The researchers analyzed the results of two assessments to make their findings — the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP).

The report singles out the Providence schools as having the greatest need to reform its programs for ELL students. It also recommends creating a statewide ELL task force to identify best practices. The study emphasizes the need to increase the number of Latino teachers and principals in the state.

“The study is fair and long overdue,” the superintendent of the Central Falls school system, Frances Gallo, told the Providence Journal. “I don’t consider it an indictment, I consider it a reality.”

According to the report, the achievement gap on the NAEP exam between Latino and white students on fourth and eighth grade math exams is among the ten worst in the nation. They also score lower in math and reading when compared against Latino students elsewhere in the country. Meanwhile, white and black students do not fare as poorly when compared to peers nationally.

Additionally, eighth grade math achievement for ELLs in the state ranks last in the country. Additionally, Rhode Island state officials say that the dropout rate for Latinos is about 20 percent, compared with a 10 percent dropout rate for white students.

Education officials are trying to make improvements. Central Falls is requiring that all teachers become ESL certified. And in Providence, ELLs will not only be segregated in ESL classes all day long, the Journal reported.

Related Links:

– “Report: Gaps Between R.I.’s Latino and White Students’ Achievement Are Among Worst in Nation,” Providence Journal.

– “Latino Students in Rhode Island: A Review of Local and National Performances,” Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University.

University of Texas Launches Initiative To Help Latino Males

A recently launched initiative in Texas will bring together school districts, community colleges and universities in an effort to improve education outcomes for Latino and black male students.

The Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color will be based at the University of Texas at Austin and seeks to encourage Texas higher education institutions to create “male-focused student programs” that address state goals in increasing the success of minority male students.

The group is pursuing several objectives. It will work to hold meetings and student summits around the issue. The program also hopes to identify and build successful male mentoring programs. The group also hopes to serve as a resource center through which best practices can be shared.

The consortium will be led by UT education professor Victor Saenz. He is also the executive director of Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), which I have blogged about before.

The consortium is supported in part by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating  Board, which has a “Closing the Gaps” initiative that aims to increase college enrollment in the state. and close gaps by 2015. In the latest 2013 spring progress report, the board found that there is a growing gender gap in college enrollment and Hispanic males in particular have the lowest participation rate.

According to the report, in fall 2012, only about 4.1 percent of the Hispanic male population Texas participated in higher education, which was 1.7 percent below the rate of female Hispanics. It would take about 88,000 more male Hispanic students to enroll to catch up to female Hispanic students.

Additionally, the report finds that about 47 percent of Hispanic males who graduated from high school in 2012 went directly to college the following fall, compared with 56 percent of Hispanic females.

Related Links:

– “UT Austin Launches Texas Consortium to Improve Outcomes for Male Minority Students,” Press Release.

– Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success). 

– “Researchers Call Attention to the Educational ‘State of Crisis’ Facing Latino Males,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Closing the Gaps Spring 2013 Progress Report,” Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Florida Race-Based Standards Prompt Complaint

Florida education officials are being challenged on their plan to evaluate Latino and black students based on much lower math and reading achievement goals than those set for white and Asian students.

Educators have long advocated for judging students based on growth, rather than a set cut score. A significant achievement gap still persists. But does that mean standards should be set lower for black and Hispanic children as a result?

When the standards were approved last October, a Florida Department of Education spokesperson said that officials felt they needed to take into account the groups’ “starting point.” The goals are set to go into effect in the 2013-14 school year.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday against the state’s race-based plan.

“The research is clear: Low expectations result in low achievement,” said Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director, in a news release. “By setting lower expectations for black and Hispanic students, Florida is telling these students that it is their skin color – not their hard work and perseverance – that will determine their success in school. This plan will only widen the achievement gap in Florida classrooms.”

In reading, the passing goals set by 2018 are 74 percent for black students, 81 percent for Hispanic students, 88 percent for white students and 90 percent for Asian students. In math, the goals are 74 percent for black students, 80 percent for Hispanic students, 86 percent for white students and 92 percent for Asian students.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that one of the parties to the complaint, 14-year-old Robert Burns, who is black and has excelled on state exams, believes the goals should be 100 percent for all students.

“If you expect 60, I’ll give you 60. If you shoot for the moon, I’ll land on the stars,” he told the newspaper. “I’m more than what statistics or Florida thinks of me. When I found out they were going to set lower standards for me based on the color of my skin, I felt devastated. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right.”

The 100 percent proficiency goal cited by Robert has been viewed as the hallmark of No Child Left Behind. Indeed , the complaint cites former President George W. Bush’s now famous quote condemning the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

However, Florida has performed well on performance standards with its Hispanic students. For example, an evaluation of student performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that Florida students were strong-performers, when compared with students from other large states.

Additionally, a report from the National Center for Education Statistics also recently found that the Latino high school graduation rate was about 72 percent in Florida in 2010.

Related Links:

– “SPLC Files Complaint WIth DOJ Over Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals,” Orlando Sentinel.

– “Florida’s Race-Based Education Goals Discriminate, Complaint Alleges,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

– “Civil Rights Complaint Lodged Against Florida’s Student Achievement Plan,” Southern Poverty Law Center. 

– “Florida Sets Lower Achievement Goals for Latinos Than White Students,” Latino Ed Beat.

Study: NYC Latino Male Students Lag in College Readiness

First, the good news: High school graduation rates are improving for Latino and black male students in New York City. The bad news? Many of those new graduates are not ready for college coursework.

Those are the key findings of a new report by the Research Alliance for New York City,  based at New York University.  The report, “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness Among Black and Latino Males in New York City”, shows that getting minority students to the high school finish line isn’t enough. Schools must look beyond graduation, and also focus on whether they are preparing young men for future college success.

Between 2002 and 2010, the graduation rate for Latino males in New York City improved from 45 percent to 59 percent. For black males, the rate improved from 45 to 57 percent. However, the study  found that just 11 percent of Latino males and 9 percent of black males are ready for college.

Male minority students are falling behind females. To address the achievement gap, Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the “Young Men’s Initiative” two years ago. The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) was also created to assist 40 schools with improving outcomes for male students.

Adriana Villavicencio, the study’s co-author, told Diverse Issues in Higher Education that the study is meant to support and evaluate the city’s efforts. “ESI is really focused on college and career readiness of black and Latino males,” she told the publication. “And we thought it would be important to ask what does that look like in New York City?”

The report points to the challenges facing young minority male students. Those issues include the overrepresentation of black and Latino boys in special education courses, high suspension rates, and limited access to advanced courses. The report recommends that the ESI program focus its resources on the ninth grade first, before expanding to the upper grades. It also establishes goals such as increasing the number of males taking honors courses, and offering mentoring and freshmen seminars to boys.

For the purposes of the report, college readiness is defined by the New York State Education Department’s “Aspirational Performance Measure.” Readiness is defined as equivalent to a Regents diploma, and a score of 80 or higher on the Regents math exam and 75 or higher on the English exam.

Related Links:

– “Study Calls Attention to NYC Effort on Black and Latino Male College Readiness,” Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

– “Moving the Needle: Exploring Key Levers to Boost College Readiness,” NYU Steinhardt.

– Young Men’s Initiative. 

– Expanded Success Initiative (ESI)

States Vary in Preparedness for Common Core Standards’ Impact on Latinos

Sates have widely varying degrees of preparedness for the implementation of common core standards — and in particular their impact on low-income, Latino and black students.

A new report by the Education Trust, “Uneven at the Start,” identifies the best- and least-prepared states at  phasing in the more rigorous reading and math standards to serve different student populations. The group used performance data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam to predict how states will fare. It examines both improvement and performance of each state on NAEP exams, including in fourth- and eighth- grade reading and math performance, compared against the national average.

With Latino students, Texas and Massachusetts performed best. Florida also performed well.

Meanwhile, Oregon  and California had the weakest record with Hispanic students. The two states are improving slowly when compared against other states, and have performed worse than the national average across several subject areas and age levels. According to the analysis, neither state in any category is above the national average for Hispanics.

The analysis found that no state had above average performance and improvement for Hispanic students across all the subject and grade levels.

“…Instead of just pretending that the same amount of effort will be required everywhere to get children to the new standards, we need to make sure that the lessons from states that have improved the most for all groups of children inform implementation work more broadly and ensure that struggling states have the extra help they will need to build the forward momentum that is already present elsewhere,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, in a news release.

The report has charts that break out where each state falls within the spectrum of performance.

Related Links:

– “Uneven at the Start: Differences in State Track Records Foreshadow Challenges and Opportunities for Common Core,” The Education Trust. 

– “New Analyses Examine State Track Records in Performance and Improvement,” The Education Trust.