City students show uneven progress on state test

Approximately half of San Francisco’s public-school students are not testing at grade level in math and English — and according to newly released state test data, the gap between white and Asian students and their black and Hispanic peers in The City widened in 2008.

San Francisco Unified School District officials saw the glass as half full, touting at a news conference Thursday the SFUSD’s seventh straight increase in scores on the annual test.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia did express concern about what’s known as the “achievement gap” between black and Latino students and their peers.

The California Standards Test is administered to students statewide in grades two through 11 each spring. Districtwide passing rates for students on the English portion hit 50.5 percent, while 50.6 percent of The City’s public school students who took the test scored at “proficient” or better on the mathematics portion, according to data released by the California Department of Education on Thursday.

“This is something to celebrate,” Garcia said. “But our challenge is still ahead of us — we’ve been looking at our achievement gap, and it’s widening.”

San Francisco’s white students had a gain of four to five percentage points in their CST passing rates this year, while black students boosted their passing rates by one-half to one point, according to CDE data. Meanwhile, Hispanic students slipped two percentage points in mathematics, while Asians lost two percentage points in English.

The district includes 10.3 percent white students, 12.4 percent black, 23 percent Latino and 41.8 percent Asian.

With a goal of boosting passage rates for every ethnic group to 60 percent by 2011, the district adopted a comprehensive plan in the spring aimed at tracking individual schools and student-by-student data to determine which schools and students are faring well — as well as which ones need the most help.

“We understand the ambitiousness of the plan,” said Pecolia Manigo, director of youth organizing for Coleman Advocates, which urged the district to set the 2011 deadline.

In the coming years, San Francisco schools will use state test data to learn from others that have discovered ways to close the gap, according to Garcia.

Balboa High School is one school the district says is tackling the achievement gap. At Balboa, black students have increased their passing rates 10 percent in five years, and Hispanic students’ passing rates have gone up 19 percent in the same period, according to principal Patricia Gray.

Black students make up 11 percent of Balboa’s population, while Hispanics compose 22 percent.

Gray credits her students’ success to a combination of factors, from guaranteed breakfasts to constantly checking in with students to make sure they’re absorbing what they’ve just been taught — as well as offering them access to higher-track courses.

“I have brilliant black and brown kids who haven’t been asked to be in an honors class before,” Gray said.

Garcia said the district may also try to scare some schools straight.

“We can show them what will happen with your school if you continue the way you’re going,” he said. “At some point, you have to intervene.”

Sample questions

Examples of questions students in grades four, seven and 10 must tackle on the California Standards Test.

Grade 4 English

Read this sentence from “Tim and Jim’s Race”: No one can swim faster than I can!

In this sentence, the author is using:

  • a) a simile.
  • b) hyperbole.
  • c) a metaphor.
  • d) rhyme.

Grade 4 math

Valley Transport has been hired to deliver new seats to the Oak Valley Sports Stadium. The company will use 41 trucks to move the seats. If each truck holds 1025 seats, how many seats will be delivered to the stadium?

  • a) 41,825
  • b) 41,925
  • c) 42,025
  • d) 42,125

Grade 7 English

Read the final sentence of “The Old Juniper Tree”: There is a will in it — toward continuing to be, come what may.

In this sentence, it is clear that the author wants readers

  • a) to think about trees as a useful part of nature.
  • b) to think of the tree as a symbol of hope.
  • c) to see the harshness of the environment.
  • d) to see the need for taking care of the environment.

Grade 7 math

What is the value of x if –3x + 2 = −7?

  • a) x = –6
  • b) x = –3
  • c) x = 3
  • d) x = 6

Grade 10 English

Read this sentence from paragraph 1 of “Working Out a Book”: All the information we can obtain about this early time is interesting, for it was then that Abe was laying the foundation of his future eminence.

The phrase “future eminence” most specifically refers to Lincoln’s:

  • a) philosophy.
  • b) reputation.
  • c) wealth.
  • d) intelligence.

Source: California Department of Education

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