The Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) 2010 results are out, and California students continue to improve and make steady progress, however the scores still reveal a high achievement gap between minority students and Whites.

The STAR Program, which consists of four components, include the California Standards Test (CSTs), the California Modified Assessment (CMA), the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA) and the Standards-bases Test in Spanish (STS).

The CST tests are standards-based tests that measure the achievement of state content standards in English-language arts (ELA), mathematics, science, and history-social science.

The CMA is designed for students with disabilities, whose individualized education program (IEP) team determined that the CMA is appropriate. However, students must also meet State Board of Education-adopted eligibility criteria.

The CAPA is designed for students who have a significant cognitive disability, and the STS is intended for students who either received instruction in Spanish or were enrolled in a school in the United States for less than a year.

In spite of this, these students also completed the grade-level CST or CMA.

Although not every student is tested in every subject, most students are tested in Engligh-language arts (ELA) and in Mathematics. Students in grades two through 11 are tested in ELA; students in grades two through nine are tested in mathematics; students in grades five, eight and ten are tested in science; and students in grades eight and 11 are tested in history.

Student’s test results can be interpreted under five different levels of performance for each subject test: Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. The State Board of Education has recognized the Proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students, which demonstrates a solid and adequate understanding of the subject.

This year’s test results show that the percentage of students at or above the proficient level increased by two points in English-language arts and two points in math.

The results also show that in the eight years since the CSTs were aligned to state standards, the percentage of students achieving at the proficient or advanced level increased by 17 points from 35 to 52 percent in ELA and 13 points in math from 35 to 48 percent.

The tests reveal that Latino 4th graders have steadily improved their performance in mathematics, increasing 27 percentage points since 2003, which narrowed the Latino-White achievement gap to 19 points.
There is also good news with the English Learners (ELs) community, which gained 5 percentage points in 4th grade mathematics from last year, but they still trail their peers by 23 percentage points.

“For the eighth consecutive year, California’s public school student performance has improved,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “Even as schools struggle with the ongoing state fiscal crisis, it is impressive that we are seeing sustained growth in proficiency.”

Even though O’Connell noted that more than half of students who were tested are proficient or advanced in ELA and nearly half are proficient or advanced in mathematics, this also means that the other half are not. The results show that 48 percent of California’s students are not proficient in ELA and more than half are not proficient in mathematics with a staggering 52 percent.
Broken down ethnically, the results also paint a more distressing picture: Only 40 percent of African-American, Latino, and low-income students reached proficiency in eighth grade English-language arts, compared to 71 percent of their White peers. An astonishing 61 percent of African-American and 54 percent of Latino students did not reach basic levels of proficiency in Algebra I.

African-American 11th graders improved less than one point per year in ELA, and only 28 percent reached proficiency in 2010. And lastly, achievement gaps in 11th grade ELA for African-American and low-income students have actually widened by three percent since 2003.

Also, in both the English and Mathematics portion of the tests, Whites who are economically disadvantaged still do better than economically advantaged Blacks–by one percent in English by one percent, and by seven percent in math.

“Today’s STAR results continue to reveal a pernicious achievement gap that California has been faulty in closing, particularly with our African American and Hispanic students,” said Senator Gloria Romero, chair of the state Senate Education Committee. “More than half of our students are still failing in basic English and math. Incremental progress will never enable California to make education our number-one priority and provide every child with a quality education.”

Over the eight years of CSTs, the achievement gap between Hispanic/Latino students narrowed by 4 percentage points in both ELA and mathematics while the gap between African Americans and Whites narrowed by only one percentage point in the same subjects over the same period of time.

“I remain concerned that we are not seeing similar narrowing trends among African American students and students of poverty. We must continue to seek and implement strategies that can help accelerate gains toward proficiency needed to narrow this academic chasm,” O’Connell said.

Approximately 4.73 million students participated in the 2010 STAR program, scores reflect students who were tested through June 30. However, these are raw scores because STAR is still waiting for students who have not yet been tested.