The broken record continues to wail plaintively, and in many respects, that is exactly what this years’ Academic Performance Index (API) results sound like.

State Superintendent of Education Jack O’Connell last week released the annual public school academic growth and achievement report along with the public school rankings and the Base Academic Performance Index (API) report.

The test scores of African-Americans in Compton, Inglewood, Los Angeles and Antelope Valley school districts continue to lag behind those of almost every category of pupils except students with disabilities.

Evaluation of nine school districts, revealed that Black pupils scored below English language learners in all but three districts (Los Angeles Unified, 8 points; Inglewood 14; and Westside 20 points).

African Americans also scored near the district API average in only one school district–Inglewood. All students hit a 688 average, and Blacks were only four points lower.

In all other instances, the scores of Black youngsters ranged from 88 below the district average (Mojave Unified 670) to 29 below the Compton Unified average of 641.

The API target districts in California shoot for is 800, and the only one to hit or top that mark was Westside Union Elementary School District with 807. This district included 6,624 students, and 845 African American in the total number of pupils tested in 2009.

The API for Black youngsters in Westside was 739-the highest of all districts.

Mojave Unified in Kern County, which tested 1,843 youngsters including 321 African Americans posted the lowest API for Blacks with 582.

This so-called achievement gap will have dire consequences for African Americans, if it is not addressed said Pamela Short-Powell of the Western Council on Educating the Black Child.

“… unless they do better, I think we are going to continue to see the drop-out rate increasing among African American youngsters and the graduation rate decreasing,” Powell said.

The former Inglewood superintendent pointed out that in California, academic achievement is tied to the high school exit exam.

“When people feel they are not going to perform well on this exam and not graduate from high school, they may feel discouraged about their education.”

This added, the educator may lead to dropping out.

Short-Powell believes there is one key ingredient that can begin to turn the situation around for Black students–raising expectation levels.

“High school graduation is not the ultimate,” stressed the veteran educator. “Graduating from college or a career or technical institution has got to be where the bar is. Until that occurs, you’re going to continue to see the achievement gap.”

The demand for high expectations must come from parents, teachers, and the students themselves, added Short-Powell, who noted that African Americans must stop putting so much emphasis on children graduating from the eighth grade. That should be expected. Instead, this graduation can be celebrated, but the emphasis must be on going on to successfully complete high school and then post-secondary education.

Short-Powell said there is also a resource gap that must be closed. Black students need to have the same level of spending as those youngsters who are classified as English Learners.

Among the other strategies the educator says must be taken are:
* teaching students how to study differently–working in groups instead of alone; bring the study group to the house

* investing in a tutor if needed

* putting more rigor into the instructional program and holding students accountable to meeting that standard

* offering educators professional development training that is culturally relevant. Short-Powell said this can be something as simple as making sure that all teachers understand that Black children tend to be verbal learners who move about

* engaging the entire community in working to decrease the achievement gap.

Short-Powell, who is also involved with California Association of African American Superintendents and Administrators says this organization is in the midst of planning conferences to be held in Northern and Southern California that will address the achievement gap. The idea is to reach out to all the different entities that are trying to make a difference–sororities, fraternities, social activists organizations, the federal office of civil rights and others.

For information on the conferences, check the web site: www.caaasa.org.