California Partnership Initiative Registration Open

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The California Partnership Initiative (CPI) is a project of the California State GEAR UP Program. Since 1999, the California State program has enjoyed working in collaboration with GEAR UP partnership projects to reach our mutual goals:  increasing college and career readiness for low income students and improving the college going culture in schools.   CPI was formalized at the National GEAR UP conference in Washington, DC in July 2014.  The CPI planning committee was formed and representatives from the partnership projects met again at the NCCEP CBW in Philadelphia in February 2015.  This initiative brings together the 16 active partnership projects and the state grant to strengthen our efforts for ALL students throughout California.

2017 California Partnership Initiative Conference REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!

Please click the link below to register your team:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EVgwGumXuT6ccAcNMUulx9A41_XrGqkaxl6t9cuGkto/edit?usp=sharing

 

The Racial Gap in Education Is Slowly Shrinking

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(from CityLab)

In the long fight to close achievement gaps in America’s public schools, some troubling trends are holding strong. The gap between higher- and lower-income students persists, and race, income, and segregation remain deeply connected when it comes to academic performance. But new research shows that the racial gap, though stubborn, appears to be slowly closing.

That’s a finding from a study released Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute that lends hard data to the progress and continued struggles to put students of different demographic groups on equal footing.

The good news from the report: African American and Hispanic students are continuing to catch up to their white counterparts. The gender gap is also gradually narrowing in math and reading: Female students lag males in math by a smaller margin than they did 10 years ago, and male students are catching up in reading, though not quite as quickly.

The bad news: the gap in achievement between poor and wealthy students is as wide as ever, and the proportion of poor students increased significantly over the period of study. Also bad: the gap has actually grown between students who are still learning English (in this study, that was limited to Hispanic and Asian children) and those who are fluent.

“We are going to have to really understand why the social-class gap is not closing. And that’s for whites as well,” says Martin Carnoy, an author of the report. “Poor kids are not making gains relative to non-poor kids. The average lower social class kid is not making gains. The schools have to put much more effort into this.”

Although test scores are rising overall for every demographic, the gains aren’t uniform across all states. An earlier study showed that many states that posted the lowest gains were ones with minimal minority populations. Others, like Michigan and Wisconsin, were states with “long histories of promoting vouchers and charter schools to stimulate privately managed education, to no avail.” The problem for students in these states, most of whom are white, isn’t that second- and third-generation Hispanics are catching up, or that Asian students are pulling further ahead. “The white students in these states are making lower gains,” Carnoy and García write “because their state governments are not making the kinds of public school reforms made by other states, such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and, in the 1990s, North Carolina”—reforms like strengthening math curriculum and training teachers.

On a national level, Hispanic and African American students in the United States are making headway despite the odds stacked against them. Hispanic and African American students are more likely to be poor and live in low-income, racially segregated neighborhoods or areas of concentrated poverty. And even when these students aren’t poor themselves, they’re more likely to attend schools with large proportions of poor students. More than 40 percent of black and Hispanic students were in high-poverty schools by 2013, compared to only 7 percent of white students, according to the study.

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“These kids, on average, are going to the schools which allegedly should not be very helpful to them to do well, according to what we know about these schools,” Carnoy says. “That means that somehow either our judgment of these schools is incorrect, these high-minority, high-poverty schools, or there’s something happening outside getting them to do better.”

That fact, he says, should temper the condemnation of public schools that has come from many politicians, including President-elect Donald Trump and education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. It could also be a case for not making radical changes based on the idea that schools are uniformly failing their students and communities.

“In terms of these ethnic gaps closing, and kids of color doing well in the system, the public schools should keep doing what they’re doing, making the kind of reforms they’re making, whether it’s trying to improve the curriculum, or as in some states, like California, assigning more money to poor kids, trying to do a better job of getting good teachers into these high-minority, high-poverty schools,” Carnoy says.

But language programs still need to make more progress to help English-learners, and the fact that schools are generally becoming poorer also raises some red flags. Among the eighth-graders they sampled for mathematics performance, the share of schools classified as high-poverty rose from 15.7 percent in 1996 to 24.1 percent in 2013. In that same time, the number of schools with more than half of their students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch rose from 31.2 percent to 48.3 percent.

To reach their findings, Carnoy and García examined fourth and eighth graders in reading and mathematics from 2003 to 2013, and eighth graders in mathematics from 1996 to 2013. They used individual students’ microdata from the National Assessment of Education Progress, which allowed them to separately analyze the influence of English language ability on the academic performance of Hispanic and Asian American students.

Their report is more silver lining than cloud: the racial achievement gap has long been one of the more damning symptoms of inequity in education, and it’s getting better. Economic inequality, however, is not—and its consequences on children will shape the future.

The study concludes with some concrete policy recommendations: investing in early childhood education (particularly by strengthening the math curriculum), strengthening public education, and investing in afterschool and summer enrichment programs. These steps aren’t enough to solve social divisions in the United States, but, the authors write, “neither is doing nothing or implementing policies that don’t work for anyone.”

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Partnership Success: Palomar AP Academy

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The 2016 Palomar College GEAR UP for Advanced Placement (AP) Academy provided 152 students the opportunity to study advanced materials in-depth and at an accelerated pace, ultimately giving students a head start on the rigorous coursework they will face in the 2016-17 school year.  The academy allowed students to familiarize themselves with AP standards and motivate and prepare them to enroll in future AP courses. Students experienced challenging classes and glimpsed college life through our weekly local college visits.

apacademyvisitplnuThese college bound students collaborated with teachers, administrators, and previous AP students to be better prepared for college level coursework.  Students who successfully completed the AP Academy earned five elective credits and one paid AP exam by the Palomar College GEAR UP program.

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California GEAR UP Completes Statewide School Institutes

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To support the California GEAR UP model, regional leadership and professional development events were created for each of the 48 California GEAR UP Middle Schools. The purpose is to develop regional support networks to provide opportunities for GEAR UP schools to learn from each other and problem solve together about common concerns and issues.

These events are facilitated by Whole School Services Coaches with content based on advice from School Leadership Team members.  Events are customized to meet the needs of participating schools within each region and in alignment with target areas of growth identified in the GEAR UP School Self Assessment Rubric.img_96951

September 22, 2016 7:30AM-3:30PM  Southern California Riverside Fall Regional Institute

Theme: GEAR UP Leadership Teams, What is your Bigger Purpose? 

Mission Inn Hotel** Riverside, CA

 

 September 29, 2016 

7:30AM-3:30PM 

Southern California Anaheim Fall Regional Institute Theme: GEAR UP Leadership Teams, What is your Bigger Purpose?  Marriott Suites Anaheim,
 November 2, 2016 8:30AM-3:00PM  Northern California Fall Institute

Theme: Focus on the Whole Child—Academics, Social-Emotional Health, Parent and Community Connections 

Courtyard by Marriott —Midtown** Sacramento, CA

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5 Tips for Scoring College Scholarships

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If you’re a high school senior or a college student looking for scholarships to help fund the cost of school next year, now is the perfect time to begin your search.

Local private scholarship deadlines tend to be in the spring, but applications for some of the biggest national scholarships are due in the next few months.

In fact, November is National Scholarship Month, designated by the nonprofit National Scholarship Providers Association to help raise awareness that fall is the time to start applying.

Unlike financial aid, these scholarships are based on merit, not financial need, though family income can be a factor in some cases.

For some scholarships, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to have a chance. The Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition, for example, awards up to $50,000 to students who demonstrate leadership. But applications are due Dec. 1.

Applications for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship Program—which gives up to $40,000 per year—must be submitted by Nov. 30th, and the James W. McLamore Whopper Scholarship, from the co-founder of Burger King, gives $50,000 awards to students, but you have to apply by Dec. 15.

How likely is it that you’ll win scholarship dough? Fairly decent, actually.

According to the 2016 Sallie Mae How America Funds College survey, about half of families who responded reported getting some scholarship or grant money. In fact, according to the survey, scholarships and grants covered 34 percent of college costs on average.

Though less than 1 percent of students get scholarships that cover the entire cost of tuition and room and board, according to financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, there are thousands of scholarships that go beyond academic or athletic performance.

Among them are music performance, community service, and entrepreneurial experiences, says Kathy Ruby, director of college finance for College Coach, a college admission and financing consulting service.

Smart Strategies

Here are five ways to maximize your chances of getting money that can make a meaningful dent in your college bills:

Target merit aid. Colleges are one of the largest providers of grants and scholarships, Ruby says. Eager to get a diverse student body, colleges use merit aid to recruit students based on specific characteristics, such as your GPA, your field of study, or where you grew up.

Generally, private colleges offer more merit aid than public universities because they have endowments and don’t rely on state funding. But many state schools, especially in the South and West, offer generous scholarships to out-of-staters with solid academic records.

For example, The University of Arkansas’ New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award scholarship gives up to 90 percent of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for students from neighboring states who have a GPA of 3.2 or higher.

You can increase your chances of getting merit aid by applying to schools where your test scores and grades place you in the top 10 percent of the class.

Go to the College Board’s website, Big Future, to see how your academic record compares with students accepted at the schools you want to attend.

As you research and visit schools, ask admissions officers whether you are a good candidate for merit aid and what kind of profile students who get merit aid typically have.

“The criteria colleges look for shifts every year,” Ruby says.

Find your fit. Be strategic about applying. Scholarships with few or very broad criteria will have a lot more competition.

Spend your time searching for scholarships that really match your experience and interests. Use free online scholarship search services that can help you find those that fit: Cappexthe College BoardFastweb, and Scholarships.com.

You fill out a profile to identify what’s unique about you, and the services match you with potential scholarships.

Go big and small. National scholarships are often more lucrative than those in your community, so targeting a few large scholarships is a good way to start.

But your odds of snagging a local one may be better because you’re likely to be competing against fewer students. Talk to the guidance counselors at your school to see which organizations they work with.

Churches, civic organizations such as Rotary Clubs, and local businesses are common sources. Go the extra mile by looking up the winners or going to awards ceremonies to see who scores the awards.

Focus on your career. Some professional organizations offer scholarships to entice people to enter the field, especially in hard-to-fill professions.

Check out the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop tool, which lists more than 5,000 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate school programs. These include: $2,500 from the American Association of Equine Practitioners for people studying veterinary medicine and $3,000 to $5,000 from the American Concrete Institute to support students whose studies relate to concrete (really).

Then there’s the $5,000 John Kitt Memorial Scholarship from the American Association of Candy Technologists, for college students with a demonstrated interest in confectionary technology.

Start early. You don’t need to wait until senior year to start thinking about scholarships. Begin researching potential scholarships when you first enter high school.

“Then you can start taking steps to meet the criteria rather wait and try to find what box you fit in,” Ruby says.

Posted with permission from consumer reports.

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Micro-Barriers Loom Large for First-Generation Students

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By the time J.D. Vance got ready to apply for law school, he’d already survived an abusive and chaotic childhood, made it through Marine Corps boot camp and a deployment to Iraq, and galloped through a bachelor’s degree at Ohio State in less than two years. But as he looked over the application for Stanford law, he found himself stymied by a simple requirement — a signature from his dean. “I didn’t know the dean of my college at Ohio State,” Vance writes in his best-selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. “I’m sure she is a lovely person, and the form was clearly little more than a formality. But I just couldn’t ask.”

He crumpled the form and finished his other applications, the ones that didn’t require help from a total stranger. And that’s why one of the most talked-about books of the year is written by a Yale law graduate instead of a Stanford alum.

In this agitated election year, Hillbilly Elegy has been closely mined for insights about working-class America and the sense of alienation that has roiled our politics and inflamed our public debate. With his Appalachian roots and searing personal story, Vance has become an eager translator across the cultural chasm, unpacking Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” in a New York Times op-ed and talking religion with Terry Gross. Vance’s lessons on college access have gone largely unnoticed, but Hillbilly Elegy has plenty to say about the intangible barriers that make it so tough for an impoverished, first-generation kid to make the leap to higher education.

“That week of interviews showed me that successful people are playing an entirely different game.”

That simple form for Stanford law is a perfect example of where a relatively tiny difference in culture can make a huge difference in access. Vance didn’t lack knowledge of the form — he wasn’t suffering an information breakdown, as we so often assume of first-generation students. He simply wasn’t willing to ask what felt like a favor of someone he didn’t know. Self-reliance is a cardinal virtue in Vance’s world, where bonds of kinship and trust take years to develop. “The professors I selected to write my letters [of recommendation] had gained my trust,” he writes. “I listened to them nearly every day, took their tests, and wrote papers for them.” They could be asked for a favor. The dean, both a stranger and a bigwig, could not.

It’s easy to view that as a silly distinction for a student to make, especially for something as important as a law-school application. But from a student’s perspective, requiring the pro forma signature of a random college official probably seems pretty silly, too. Higher education is choked with micro-barriers like that.

Reading Hillbilly Elegy, I thought about how much time we spend imploring students to seek guidance for obstacles of our own devising. We produce bureaucratic hurdles, then ask students to assume good faith and a willingness to help on the part of professors and administrators who don’t always exhibit such openness. Wealthier, parentally enabled students feel perfect freedom to ask for accommodations in exchange for their tuition dollars. But Vance highlights the awkwardness of telling low-income students to be grateful for their scholarships and also empowered to make demands.

He’s especially sharp in describing the opaque corners of the collegiate world, where decisions are made about who gets job opportunities, who makes it into the right student groups, and who gets connected to the most helpful alumni. These are the areas where no amount of diligent rule-following will do the trick, because the rules are intentionally unwritten. “The entire process was a black box, and no one I knew had the key,” Vance writes of his experience trying to join The Yale Law Journal. “I had no idea what was going on.”

A similarly hazy authority holds sway when it comes to summer internships, which matter hugely for a student’s career prospects. Not only is there no manual to guide the uninitiated; there’s also a taboo against direct questions. “There’s no database that spits out this information, no central source,” Vance writes. “In fact, it’s considered almost unseemly to ask.”

That’s because we’re all a little squeamish about the mechanics of networking, and our discomfort comes to the fore when we have to explain the dark arts to a newcomer. I felt the weight of Vance’s incredulity when he describes his first internship search at Yale law. “That week of interviews showed me that successful people are playing an entirely different game,” he writes. “They don’t flood the job market with résumés, hoping that some employer will grace them with an interview. They network.”

Vance was lucky enough to have mentors who offered honest guidance, primers on the unwritten rules of an unseen game, but too few students get that kind of break. The Gallup-Purdue Index puts enormous stock in the value of mentor relationships, correlating them to higher personal well-being and job satisfaction among graduates. But the inaugural survey in 2014 found that barely one in five students had a mentor as part of their undergraduate experience. Outside of niche scholarship and retention programs, we’re not doing nearly enough to help students navigate the unmapped terrain of academic and professional life.

In one particularly vivid example, Vance recounts a recruiting dinner at a white tablecloth restaurant in downtown New Haven. Faced with more cutlery than any sane person needs, he retreated to the bathroom for a phone-a-friend lifeline on fork selection. Reading the details of his nerve-wracking meal — “That’s when I realized ‘sparkling’ water meant ‘carbonated’ water” — I felt proud that my university offers voluntary etiquette dinners for students. It’s easy to criticize that kind of course as outmoded or patronizing, until you read Vance’s very real mortification as he tries to bluff his way through a formal evening. If the world is going to judge you on something, we ought to be willing to teach it.

The biggest lesson of Hillbilly Elegy is just how much there is to teach. As the divides in our culture and our economy have deepened, bridging the distance between Vance’s world and the college environment has become a bigger lift. Our well-mannered discretion about this gap is born of best intentions, but it leaves working-class kids like Vance at a real disadvantage. He makes a persuasive case for more blunt acknowledgment, ending one chapter with a “non-exhaustive list of things I didn’t know when I got to Yale Law School.” It includes gems like, “that your shoes and belt should match,” and my personal favorite, “that finance was an industry people worked in.”

Vance’s story is not universal. He’s white, which affords no small amount of privilege. He benefited from a network of extended family that supported and cared for him, however imperfectly. And he attended a decent public school. None of those things are taken for granted. That Vance still felt such a vast gulf between his world and academe is a measure of our challenge. And it suggests there’s still a great deal our institutions can do to feel less foreign to our own students.

That means not just sharing information and simplifying processes, but also telling stories like Vance’s. It means avoiding the coded politesse that plays down the class divide and benefits of those on the winning side of it. Candor is not a cure-all, but Vance’s memoir makes a powerful case for a more honest accounting of what separates us.

Eric Johnson is assistant director for policy analysis and communications in the Office of Scholarships & Student Aid at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This essay reflects his personal views.

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Smedberg Math Camp Highlights Students Natural Skills


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On Saturday, September 24, 2016, Coalition for Educational Partnerships (CEP), a California GEAR UP parnter, hosted a Common Core Math Camp at Smedberg Middle School, located in Elk Grove, CA.

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The Camp provided families with a deeper understanding of the State of California‘s adoption of the Smarter Balance Assessment; and how the Common Core Math Practices provide skills and concepts that offer students meaningful opportunities to succeed in college and careers


img_178314The CEP facilitator highlighted the students’ natural skills and abilities in a collaborative, project-based graphing activity. In addition to collecting ideas, families received resources to continue the learning at home with family, friends, and neighbors.

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For more information about CEP, please visit their website.

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Recognizing and Serving the Diversity of the Latina/o Community

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More than Nuance: Recognizing and Serving the Diversity of the Latina/o Community

Desiree Zerquera
Assistant Professor, Department of Leadership Studies
University of San Francisco
@DesireeZerquera

Martin De Mucha Flores
Director of Early Academic Outreach Program, UC Berkeley
Doctoral Student, University of San Francisco

(Special thanks to Martin for contributing this article)

Much of our discussion in higher education upholds a homogeneous perspective of Latina/o student needs and experiences. More needs to be done to recognize the differences that exist for Latina/o student populations across the United States and the varying policy contexts of the states we work in when making decisions about how to best serve these students.

What’s the difference?

Nuñez and colleagues provided a succinct summary of key differences between Latina/o ethnic subpopulations in the US, highlighting distinctions in sociopolitical history. They note the shaping of the immigration experiences of Puerto Ricans (who are born US citizens) and Cubans (who are granted political asylum) which influences educational opportunity afforded to immigrants from these countries who do not face the same challenges as immigrants from other Latin American countries who may not have documentation.

Analysis of 2014 data from the US Census highlight educational attainment differences across Latinas/os. For instance,  less than 10 percent of Mexican, Honduran, and Salvadoran populations hold a bachelor’s degree, while 32 percent of Venezuelans and about 20 percent of Argentineans and Colombians have similar levels of degree attainment (see Figure 1). The uneven representation in bachelor’s degree completion is an example of the differences that exist across Latina/o subgroups. Still, much of the research that informs our work at the campus- and state-levels do not fully account for these differing contexts.

Differences are also true when comparing experiences of Latinas/os in different states. Nationally in 2013, over 42 percent of Latinas/os enrolled in higher education at community colleges (compared to 39 percent of non-Latinas/os), more than any other sector. While this may reflect general understandings that highlight the likelihood of Latinas/os to attend community colleges, the map presented in Figure 2 challenges this notion.  Higher concentrations of enrollments in four-year colleges by Latinas/os across the Southeast and Rocky Mountain states, as well as sprinklings in the Midwest and Northeast, demonstrate potential contextual differences within these regions that may contribute to the differing enrollment trends.

Figure 2. Concentration of Latina/o college enrollments by institution sector.

Source: Forthcoming manuscript, “Repositioning trends of Latina/o enrollments in community colleges” by D. Zerquera, N. Acevedo-Gil, E. Flores, & P. Maranthal.

The disconnect between national averages and state-by-state comparisons is better explained by numbers—over 15 million Latinas/os live in California alone, a state with a well-developed community college system and large enrollments in their two-year institutions. As this comprises more than a quarter of all Latinas/os in the US, the trends in this state have significant impacts on how data play out at the national level. This example shows that when national data are used to inform decision making, as opposed to data situated within your own state, it has the potential of distorting information. The trends presented in Figure 2 highlight a need for a state-focused perspective during decision making to ensure that funding, policies, and program development appropriately support Latino/a student success in your own state.

What can be done?

To make better decisions, we need better tools and to be better informed.

The Equity Scorecard developed by the Center for Urban Education provides a model for how to structure and use data to illuminate and address educational inequities. However, scorecards need to consider more than just standard demographic groups. For instance, matriculation information could be revised to ask students questions about nationality, in addition to race/ethnicity. This focused approach in paying attention to  Latina/o sub-groups can be used in analyses of student outcomes to better understand how Latina/o subgroups are differently served by policies and practices. This can then help inform policy and program evaluation to determine ways of better serving students. Particularly in states and on campuses with large and diverse Latina/o student populations, such as HSIs, policy and programmatic interventions can be developed or revised to address inequities that continue within the Latina/o population.

In addition to better tools we need decision makers to be better informed about the diversity of Latinas/os in their states and on their campuses. Even when there is Latina/o representation within these levels of decision-making, education surrounding the specific needs and experiences of the diverse Latina/o subgroups within the state are essential. Professional development that supports cultural fluency, provided by local community-based organizations such as Edúcate Ya in Portland, OR and Latino studies departments in colleges and universities may enhance the awareness of these needs, which can then translate into action for the benefit of all.

Undoubtedly, there is power in our collective voice in the realm of national politics and decision-making. Further, it is difficult within standard practices to not disaggregate already small numbers of individuals into even smaller groups. However, the need to understand the perspectives of diverse Latina/o subgroups is essential.  Without it we risk a grave disservice and silencing of already marginalized experiences. It is important that as we seek best practices in supporting Latina/o students on our campuses, or in developing and implementing policies that may affect thousands and millions of students in our states, that our perspective be conscious of the diversity among us and context-specific experiences.

Dr. Desiree Zerquera is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership Studies at the University of San Francisco. She has worked as a researcher, student affairs practitioner, and higher education administrator. Her research focuses on how inequalities structure the experiences of underrepresented students in accessing and succeeding in higher education.

Martin de Mucha Flores is Director of Early Academic Outreach Program at UC Berkeley and a doctoral student at the University of San Francisco. He brings years of experience in supporting Latina/o pathways to college. His dissertation focuses on the role of activism of Chican@ community college leaders in student success.

More at: 
http://www.edexcelencia.org/hsi-cp2/your-voice/recognizing-and-serving#sthash.50pB48ox.dpuf

No narrowing of achievement gaps in California

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From EdSource

Smarter Balanced test scores for all California student subgroups nudged upward this year, in tandem with average statewide gains in math and English language arts. But parallel progress won’t narrow the wide disparities in achievement between low-income and Hispanic students and their white, Asian and wealthier classmates. And for African-American students and for English learners, the achievement gap slightly widened, according to results that the Department of Education released on Wednesday.

“One year does not make a trend but some student groups with slowest progress are the ones needing to make the most progress,” said Carrie Hahnel, deputy director of Education Trust-West. “English language learners barely moved; African- Americans were the slowest progressing in math.”

The Smarter Balanced tests have revealed wide gaps in subgroup scores that education analysts said reflect the challenges of online tests and the rigors of the Common Core standards that they assess. Those standards require more writing and with math, more verbal skills: students’ ability to explain how they got their answers. Advocates of the Common Core say, and many teachers agree, that they more accurately measure skills that high school students heading to college or the workplace will need.

While 72 percent of Asian students (up 3 percentage points from last year) and 53 percent of white students (up 4 percentage points) met or exceeded standards in math, the definition of proficiency, only 18 percent of African-American students (up 2 percentage points) and 24 percent of Hispanic students (up 3 percentage points) scored proficient.

Proficiency rates were even lower for other groups: 12 percent of English learners (up 1 percentage point); 11 percent of students with disabilities (up 2 percentage points) and 23 percent of low-income students (up 2 percentage points). English learners are a special case, though, since those who pass an assessment showing they have become proficient in English subsequently are no longer classified as English learners. As a result, English learners’ test results, particularly in English language arts, will tend to lag other subgroups, complicating yearly comparisons.

The disparities are wide in English language arts as well. This year the percentage of students who met or exceeded standards by subgroup were:

  • Asian students: 76 percent, up 5 percentage points;
  • White students: 64 percent, up 3 percentage points;
  • Hispanic students: 37 percent, up 5 percentage points;
  • African-American students: 31 percent, up 3 percentage points;
  • Low-income students: 35 percent, up 4 percentage points;
  • Students with disabilities: 14 percent, up 2 percentage points;
  • English learners, a category that does not include former English learners who tested proficient in English: 13 percent, up 2 percentage points.

There also is a gender gap in English language arts: 54 percent of girls scored proficient, up 5 percentage points, compared with 42 percent of boys, up 4 percentage points. Boys and girls had identical scores in math: 37 percent, up 3 percentage points.

“Even as they applaud the gains, our state leaders should formally renew our state’s commitment to focusing on the academic needs of our underserved students and closing these gaps,” said Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners, a nonprofit that works with districts to improve learning. “The data also clearly shows where we haven’t focused enough attention, specifically on the needs of our low- income students, English Learners and students with disabilities. For such a diverse state, these achievement gaps are simply inexcusable.”

The state has taken actions that are intended to narrow disparities. It has adopted English language development standards for English learners that are aligned with the Common Core – an important step to help English learners master academic content while they learn English. And, under the Local Control Funding Formula, districts receive additional dollars for each English learner, low-income, homeless and foster child they enroll: 20 percent per student and more dollars in districts with large concentrations of high-needs students. Districts are required to spend these “supplemental and concentration” dollars increasing and improving programs and services for the students who attract the money.

How long should it take for these resources to translate into higher scores? “I’m not sure,” said Hahnel, “but there should be more urgency to focus on the neediest kids.”

Education Trust-West plans to do an analysis of districts’ and schools’ Smarter Balanced results to identify those that excelled and then speak with principals about what they did to achieve the results.

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, may be one district on the radar. With English learners and low-income students making up two-thirds of its enrollment, 57 percent of its students scored proficient in English language arts and 45 percent scored proficient in math, 8 percentage points higher than the state average.

While the gaps in scores between low-income and non-low-income students is wide – 30 percentage points difference in English language arts and 22 points in math – San Diego Unified narrowed the difference significantly this year. Gains in proficiency for low-income students were 8 percentage points in English language arts and 5 percentage points in math, twice the statewide rate of improvement for those students. African-American students made a similar gain, 9 percentage points in English language arts, though the gap between them and white students is still 38 percentage points. The gain was 3 percentage points in math, one point less than for white students, leaving a 44 percentage point gap.

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