Every year California public school students take a battery of multiple choice tests called the STAR. In 2003, 35 percent of them were able to read and write at grade level, today it's up to 46 percent. That means today half a million more students are proficient. In math, it went from 35 percent in 2003 to 43 percent today, but there was little improvement among African Americans and Latinos.
"Today closing the achievement gap is an economy imperative. If we are going to have that well-skilled, well-educated, workforce to compete in this hyper-competitive, global economy, all of our citizens need to be trained," said /*Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell*/.
Santa Clara County school districts are doing better in serving their minority students. This week teachers from the county are learning how to close this gap.
Dale Russell is from the /*Department of Education*/. He says one way is to build vocabulary among minorities.
"We're trying to work with teachers to have them always use complete sentences, to ask questions fully, to only accept full responses back from students," said Russell.
Studies show this accelerates learning. It's working at Olinder Elementary in San Jose, where 89 percent of students are Hispanic, yet they showed significant improvement in their scores. There were three students who scored 100 on the math portion of the star test.
"Did our planning based on the data of the student, went back to the classroom, and we did our planning based on the data and went back and did the same thing every six or eight weeks," said Angelica Salgado, a Olinder Elementary teacher.
The results also show high school students did not do as well as students in the lower grades, a trend which has continued for years in California.
Superintendent O'Connell blames this on the lack of motivation and resources in many high schools.
"Now we need to have more class-size reduction at the high school level. We need to make sure that our classes are modern at our high school, the labs that we have. I'd like to see every student have a computer," said O'Connell.
O'Connell admits it's a good proposition, but a costly one.
STAR 2008 test results: click here