State schools chief: ‘A long way to go’

Although California students continue to show steady gains on statewide assessments, fewer than half of students statewide are at grade level in math and English, according to newly released results of state standardized tests.

In the previous six years, California has seen its pass rates on the English portion of the California Standards Test rise from 35 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2008, while passing rates in mathematics rose from 35 percent to 43 percent in the same time span, according to data released by the California Department of Education.

While state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said he was encouraged by the gains, he also said California students still have a long way to go — especially when it comes to black and Hispanic students.

“More students than ever are learning the skills they will need to participate in our hyper-competitive economy,” O’Connell said Thursday. “But the fact remains that more than half of our students, and too many of our students of color, are still not meeting our high standards.”

Statewide, 33 percent of black students passed the CST’s English portion, while 37 percent passed in mathematics. Thirty-two percent of Hispanic students passed the English exam, while 42 percent passed in mathematics.

Meanwhile, the performance gap between white students and black and Hispanic students has been narrowing during the last six years — but still remains wide.

Compared with black and Hispanic students, 21 percent to 26 percent more white students passed the mathematics portion in 2008, while 31 percent to 32 percent more whites passed the English exam, according to the California Department of Education.

Debra Watkins, founder of the San Jose-based California Alliance for African-American Educators, said the state needs to do more to help black kids succeed.

“The African-American community is beginning to mobilize behind this whole issue,” she said.

The ABCs of STAR and CST

Every spring, California students in grades two through 11 take a series of tests that make up the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program.

Results of the tests are used as barometers of progress for individual schools, districts and states, and schools that do not show adequate progress face possible state or federal penalties.

The main exam in the STAR program, the California Standards Test, is aligned with the state’s academic content standards for each grade.

Scores were posted Thursday on the Web at www.star.cde.ca.gov. — Staff report

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