Report finds continuing achievement gap in academic performance

Dec 10, 2015 by

While there has been some improvement in academic achievement among African-American students since the early 1990s, overall performance levels remain critically low nationally, and Pennsylvania’s results fall below national averages.

That information was contained in the report “The Path Forward: Improving Opportunities For African-American Students,” released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the NAACP.

“We certainly want to highlight that there is good news. But the reason we are doing this is that we want to impress upon folks that this is a crisis in our community,” said Cheryl Oldham, vice president for the Center for Education and Workforce Development at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The report identifies a “mismatch” between graduation rates among African-American students and the college readiness rate, and shows that black students are not getting access to higher-level and AP classes, particularly those in STEM (science technology engineering math) subjects, excluding them from jobs in some of the fastest-growing and highest paying segments of the job market.

Test scores on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress exams, given to a representative sample of students every two years since the 1970s, show some significant progress, the report said.

However, scores are still alarmingly low, with just 18 percent of fourth grade African-American students nationwide scoring proficient in reading and 19 percent in math. Scores in eighth-grade are worse, with 16 percent of African-American students scoring proficient in reading and 13 percent in math.

This compares with a national average among all students of 36 percent proficiency for fourth grade reading and 40 percent in fourth grade math, and 34 percent in eighth grade reading and 40 percent in eighth grade math.

In Pennsylvania, eighth grade math scores among African-American students in 2015 were among the bottom five with just 8 percent hitting proficiency.

The 2015 NAEP scores compare with those from the early 1990s when just 8 percent of African-American fourth graders nationally scored proficient in reading and 1 percent scored proficient in math. During the same timeframe, 9 percent of African American eighth graders scored proficient in reading and 5 percent in math.

“We don’t want to retreat on the things that we have been doing over the last 10 to 15 years and we think those pieces are important but surely there is a long, long way to go,” Ms. Oldham said.

Other 2015 scores from Pennsylvania show 13 percent of African-American eighth-grade students scoring proficient in reading. Among fourth graders in the state, 15 percent scored proficient in math and 17 percent in reading.

The report shows high school graduation rates, based on the 2013 graduating class, ranging from 84 percent in Texas to 57 percent in Nevada and Oregon, with Pennsylvania at 73 percent. Pennsylvania’s average for African-American students is higher than the national average of 71 percent, but lower than the state average of 86 percent for all students.

And while high school graduation rates across the board are on the increase, there is a “clear mismatch” between the graduation rates and college readiness among African-Americans, the report said.

College readiness rates as measured in English, math, reading and science, by black students taking the ACT range from 17 percent in Massachusetts to 3 percent in Mississippi, with Pennsylvania seeing 8 percent of the 2,887 black students who took the ACT measuring as college-ready.

According to the report, no state with at least 500 African-American ACT test takers saw more than 17 percent score college ready. In Pennsylvania, where there were 2,887 African-American students who took the test, just 8 percent tested college-ready.

Just five states had 5 percent of their high school graduating class pass at least one AP test in a STEM subject. Pennsylvania was not one of them. It saw just 1.4 percent of African-American students pass a STEM-related AP class.

Students who are not exposed to STEM-related classes cannot get jobs in the fastest-growing and highest-paying job markets where employers are struggling to fill jobs, Ms. Oldham said.

As for Advanced Placement courses, 14.8 percent of African-American students in Pennsylvania took an AP exam, as compared with 24.2 percent nationally. Among the African-American students, just 4.1 percent passed an AP exam, while 17 percent of all students in the state passed.

The report said to find solutions educators and business leaders need to look at states that are “advancing educational equity,” and look seek “elements of promising programs” that could work in individual communities.


Source: Report finds continuing achievement gap in academic performance | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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