The Achievement Gap between students of different ethnic groups in San Diego County has been reduced significantly, according to data released by the Superintendents Achievement Gap Task Force.
"We're very proud of our students in the Class of 2006, and the teachers, administrators and school staff members who worked with them," said Don Phillips, Chair of the Superintendents Achievement Gap Task Force and Superintendent of the Poway Unified School District, at the annual news conference of the task force.
"Two years ago, the gap between white and Asian students on one hand, and African American, Hispanic and Latino students on the other, was 25 points," Phillips said. A year later, he said, that gap was reduced to 14 points. Now, it is slightly more than six percentage points.
"We're pleased, but our work is not done," Phillips said. "Our goal when we initiated the Task Force was 100 percent of the students passing the exit exam's math portion, and that is still our goal."
The yardstick for the achievement gap calculations has been the California High School Exit Exam's math portion. That assessment was selected because of its importance to students, and the importance of math achievement in general as a gatekeeper for admission to college.
According to the data released at the task force news conference, 98.5 percent white and Asian students in the class of 2006 passed the exit exam's math portion. The pass rate among African American and Latino students in the class of 2006 was 92.3.
Joining Phillips as speakers at the September 13 news conference were County Superintendent of Schools Randy Ward, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Carl Cohn, Cajon Valley Union School District Superintendent Janice Cook, California School Boards Association Luann Rivera, and Escondido High School Principal Sue Emerson.
Cohn emphasized the extraordinary efforts that were put forth in support of students in the Class of 2006. He cited the rare, August graduation commencement ceremony of 200 San Diego Unified seniors, each accompanied by their school principal.
In response to Union-Tribune reporter Chris Moran's question about the importance of the exit exam, Cohn said, "When you talk about a lifetime of unemployment and/or incarceration, this one test makes all the difference in the world, and that's why it's important."
Cook pointed out that passage of the exit exam is not just a high school issue.
"As an elementary school district, we recognize it's our responsibility to provide a strong mathematics foundation for every student before they enter high school," she said. "This begins in kindergarten and continues through the introduction of algebra in 8th grade. Even though we don't administer the exit exam, our teachers play a vital role in ensuring students have the skills needed to pass the exam."
Phillips also announced at the news conference that the Task Force would expand its work into English Language Arts in the coming months. He said staff at the County Office of Education are preparing ELA materials for teachers, which will be piloted in classrooms early next year.