Press Release

OAKLAND, CA (August 18, 2009) –Results from the 2009 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) released today by the California Department of Education (CDE) show marginal statewide improvement across most grade levels and content areas. More students are demonstrating mastery of state standards than at any point since standards and assessments became fully aligned in 2003.

“We must and do acknowledge the hard work of teachers, administrators, students and parents in these gains. But we must also acknowledge that these gains are accompanied by wide and persistent achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from their more advantaged peers. The lack of progress in truly closing these gaps is appalling,” said Linda Murray, Acting Executive Director of The Education Trust—West.

The results of these data send a number of clear messages:

  • Achievement in 4th grade Math and English-Language Arts has grown substantially, and achievement gaps narrowed most significantly, but this progress has been slow—on average less than a percentage point a year. At the current rate of growth, it will take over thirty years to close the gaps between Latino and African-American 4th graders and White 4th graders in Math and English.
  • Middle school progress is slower still. The gap separating Latino 8th graders and White 8th graders in English-Language Arts remains unchanged since 2003; and has actually increased between African-American and White 8th grade students during this same period.
  • Achievement in high school math is stagnant. Unlike the growth seen in early grades or in English-Language Arts, the percentage of students reaching proficiency in Geometry has not grown since 2003, and the proficiency rates in Algebra II declined by one percentage point.

“We know California is facing a fiscal crisis of epic proportions, and many say that the resulting cuts to our education system mean students will suffer. These data show students are already suffering. What’s more, we cannot afford to slow down or pull back our efforts now,” said Murray. “Progress must continue and low-income students and students of color must be our first priority for strategic planning and targeted resources.

“Change can happen. And some schools across the state are making it happen—giving lie to the myth that demographics determine destiny,” said Murray.

  • At 156th Street Elementary in Los Angeles Unified School District, 94 percent of Latino 4th graders achieved grade level expectations in English-Language Arts, almost 30 percentage points higher than the state average.
  • Eighty-three percent of African-American 4th graders at Victoriano Elementary School in Moreno Valley reached proficiency in Math, a 43 percentage point improvement since 2003.
  • At Richardson Prep Hi in San Bernardino Unified School District, 100 percent of 8th graders take Algebra I or above, and 85 percent reach proficiency. What’s more, all student groups are far surpassing state averages in Science and History achievement.

On Friday, August 21, 2009, The Education Trust—West will release its annual report – Achievement in California 2009: Persistent Challenges and Paths Forward. This report will dive deeper into the data released today by the CDE, and shine a spotlight on schools across the state making significant gains with the students who are farthest behind. Achievement in California 2009 will both identify the challenges revealed by the most recent state achievement data, and highlight the strategic and proven approaches undertaken by some of California’s most successful public schools to improve access and outcomes for our most vulnerable students.

“We simply cannot afford to watch another generation of young people go underserved by our educational system. Indeed, our fiscal recovery is critically dependent upon having a well-educated and well-functioning workforce, which will never come about if we fail to address, in a serious and strategic manner, the achievement gaps that plague California’s schools. Our state is better than this. Our schools are better than this. And our students deserve better than this,” concluded Murray.