“It is a moral and economic imperative that we close the achievement gap,” Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, said in a release. “California cannot afford to allow our Latino students and our African-American students to continue to lag academically behind their peers.”
The gap is clear in Newport-Mesa. While Latino students improved on the amount of students meeting standards in English-language arts, gaps between white and Latino students ranged from 30 to 40% in terms of students meeting or exceeding standards in both English and math.
Latino students are the largest minority represented in the school district. Out of the 16,225 students tested in the district, 6,732 were listed as Latino.
In comparison, 733 students tested were listed as Asian, and 217 are described as black or African-American.
“The achievement gap has been talked about for the high school exit exam and STAR for years, and we continue to address it,” said Peggy Anatol, director of kindergarten through 12th-grade assessment.
Anatol said that while schools and the district look at the needs of students in a group — such as economically disadvantaged or Latino populations — the first way the school tackles problems is on the individual student basis.
“I know the achievement gap is there, but I think the schools begin to address each student individually every day,” Anatol said.
But despite the gap, the improvement in scores for Latino students in every grade level but second grade for English-language arts was positive news, Anatol said.
Fourth grade climbed as much as 8%, from 39% of Latino students meeting or exceeding standards in English-language arts in 2007 to 47% doing it in 2008. Other grade levels increased from 1 to 4%, with seventh-graders jumping 6%.
Math scores, while better on the whole than English-language arts by about 10%, fluctuated in improvements and decreased for Latino students.
DANIEL TEDFORD may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.