Blog: Latino Ed Beat

California Latino, Black Student Scores Slide with New Tests

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California supporters of the Common Core had hoped the new standards emphasizing college readiness would help narrow the achievement gap for black and Latino students in the state, but the latest test results show that gap might be even bigger than it was previously thought to be.

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday that with the new Common Core-aligned tests, scores declined for all students. However, the scores of Latino and black students dropped more significantly than their white and Asian peers, “widening the already large gap that was evident in results from earlier years.” 

Blume explains, “Scoring is designed to be in line with what students would need to be successful in a four-year college, a higher standard than in the past.” 

This year, 39 percent of Hispanic or Latino students and 46 percent of black students scored in the lowest of four achievement levels — “standard not met.” As reported by EdSource, 23 percent of white and 12 percent of Asian students also did not meet the state standard. 

The results broken down by subject matter and demographics show 51 percent of Hispanic or Latino third graders did not meet the standard in reading, and 48 percent did not pass the writing test. Of all the Hispanic or Latino students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 who took the math exam, only 21 percent met or exceeded the standard. 

With Latinos representing more than half of the students who took the test and the demographic group said to hold California’s economic future in their hands, the recent testing data — indicative of college readiness — has been cause for concern. But some testing experts say not to put too much stock in this first round of results. For one thing, the newer tests differed from the old in both form and content, so direct comparisons can’t be made accurately. This cycle was also the first time the state tests were administered online, which could have affected results for students who were not computer savvy, Blume reports. 

John Fensterwald and Sarah Tully write for EdSource that the new tests “are also adaptive, meaning they change depending on how a student answers a question. If a student answers a question correctly, the next one will be more difficult. If a student answers incorrectly, the next question will be easier.”

Yet even though test scores traditionally drop when new tests over new content are implemented, experts say this year’s results show a more accurate picture of student achievement in California than previous scores. 

Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, told the Los Angeles Times, “This is going to show the real achievement gap. We are asking more out of our kids and I think that’s a good thing. There’s no question that when we raised the bar for students that we’re going to have to support our lower-achieving students even more so than we are now.”