California Test Results Show Persisting Achievement Gaps


Recently-released scores from last spring’s Common Core-aligned testing of public school students in California have found that the achievement gaps present in schools in the state prior to the new tests are still in existence.

Across the state, 56% of students either almost met or failed to meet standards in the English language portion of the exam.  However, 72% of African Americans fell short.  Math results were similar, with 83% of African American students almost meeting or failing to meet the standards, which was 16 percentage points lower than students across the state.

According to this year’s test results, students in the state are having a hard time with the new test.  Of the 3.2 million students in the state in grades 3-8 and grade 11 who took the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress or Smarter Balanced exam last spring, 44% met or exceeded the English language standards.  Only 33% met or exceeded the standards for math, writes Adolfo Guzman-Lopez for KPCC.

“California’s new standards and test are challenging for schools to teach and for students to learn, so I am encouraged that many students need to make more progress,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a written statement.

This is the first time that California students took the online exam, which offered questions focusing on new concepts including problem-solving, critical thinking and analytic writing.  Education officials have been preparing for the results for weeks and had been expecting the results to be lower than they have been in the past.

“I wouldn’t read too much into this first year of test score results,” said Stanford University education researcher David Plank, “because we really don’t know what the standard is at this point. We’re giving these tests for the very first time. We’re learning what it means to be proficient on these tests.”

Although this year’s scores create a baseline, it will still be a few years before schools in California will be able to use those scores to make note of any progress.  As a result, the state will not count this year’s results against any school, as students are still learning how to take exams online and teachers are in the process of improving their methods of teaching the Common Core standards, writes Howard Blume for The Los Angeles Times.

A number of differences were seen in these scores between students of low-income families, English learners, and black and Latino students when compared to other students who took the exam.

Of the low-income students, only 31% met or exceeded English standards in comparison to 64% of other students.  Similar results were seen in math scores, with only 21% of low-income students meeting or exceeding the standards in comparison to 53% of other students.  English language learners also struggled, with only 11% meeting or exceeding English standards.

Math showed the same results.   Of African-American students, just 16% met standards in math, while 21% of Latino students met or exceeded the standards.

Meanwhile, 61% of white students 61% met or exceeded the English standards, and 49% met or exceeded math standards.  Of the Asian student population, 72% met or exceeded English standards, and 69% met or exceeded the math standards.