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Background on the Achievement Gap in California

The achievement gap between White students and other ethnic groups as well as between English Learners and native English Speakers, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged and Non-disadvantaged students, and Students with Disabilities compared to Students without Disabilities is a pervasive issue in many, if not all, of California’s schools. The intent of this project is to address closing the achievement gap for all students in California’s public schools.

California’s accountability measure, the Academic Performance Index (API), demonstrates the need for this project. The API measures the academic performance and growth of schools. It is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. A school's score on the API is an indicator of a school's performance level. The statewide API performance target for all schools is 800. A school's growth is measured by how well it is moving toward or past that goal. Through the use of the API, the stark realities of California’s pernicious achievement gap become clear. Chart A below reveals that when looking at “All Grades” in 2006 there is a jarring 166 point gap between California’s African American and White students and a 145 point gap between Hispanic or Latino and White students. These gaps, and those of all the subgroups highlighted below, are simply unacceptable if California hopes to have a thriving workforce in our increasingly competitive global economy.

Chart A

2006 Base API All Grades Grades
Overall 721 752 716 683
White (not of Hispanic origin) 801 837 803 759
African American
(not of Hispanic origin)
635 677 623 589
American Indian or Alaska Native 691 724 678 659
Asian 847 876 856 807
Filipino 808 846 806 763
Hispanic or Latino 656 690 644 612
Pacific Islander 714 761 704 661
Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 654 686 641 607
English Learners 637 676 618 586
Students with Disabilities 518 567 499 456

California’s achievement gap is starkly apparent regardless of the accountability system being used. For example, Chart B reports the percentage of students at or above the Proficient Level on the state’s criterion referenced test in English Language Arts in 2006.

Chart B

2006 Percent Proficient English Language Arts
Grade 4 Grade 7 Grade 10
Overall 49 43 37
White (not of Hispanic origin) 69 63 54
African American (not of Hispanic origin) 37 29 22
American Indian or Alaska Native 45 38 34
Asian 73 67 58
Filipino 69 58 51
Hispanic or Latino 35 28 21
Pacific Islander 48 38 29
Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 35 28 21
English Learners 24 9 4
Students with Disabilities 20 11 6

As with the API results displayed in Chart A, Chart B clearly demonstrates that African American, Hispanic, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged, English Learners and Students with Disabilities lag far behind their White and Asian peers.

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