Equity gap in California: what the new test scores tell us
Linda Darling-Hammond Leib Sutcher
When the new Smarter Balanced test scores (part of California’s new assessment system known as CAASPP) came out last month, Californians engaged in what is now a time-honored routine — noting that scores inched up but large equity gaps remain.
Differentials by race, ethnicity, income, language background and disability status have become a common feature of the landscape, like our dry riverbeds and brush fires in the summertime — worrisome but not really viewed as solvable.
Thus, we typically have a “Home Alone” moment when we register wide-eyed shock as test score gaps are announced and then go about our business for another year without a purposeful analysis and determination to change the status quo
We believe it is important to dive into the data and take stock of what we can learn in order to identify the implications for educational improvement in the state and think carefully about next steps. This takes some doing, however. The state currently reports trends in terms of the proportion of students who “meet the standard,” a cut point set for each grade level, but does not focus on trends in the actual scores the students receive. (These scores are on a scale from 2000 to 3000 on the tests.) Users must go into the data set to calculate these trends themselves across test areas, years, and student subgroups.
Analyzing these trends in actual scores is especially important for understanding the performance of groups scoring well below or well above the “standards met” cut point used for reporting the data.
The Learning Policy Institute looked more closely at these data, tallying scale scores for student subgroups for each year while weighting scores from each grade level and year by the number of test takers to measure how much “growth” this year’s test scores showed compared to last year. We found some surprises offering both good news and bad news — and some clear indicators of where the state needs to dig in and work harder.
First the bad news: As the graphs below show, students with disabilities score low and show little growth. And many historically underserved racial/ethnic groups score well below white and Asian students and are gaining less rapidly, which contributes to a widening achievement gap. This includes African-American students, where the news is the worst, followed by Native American and Pacific Islander students.
And all of the news is worse in mathematics than in English language arts where both average scores and average growth are lower overall and for each Equity gap in California: what the new test scores tell us | EdSource: