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Black Students Trail Whites, STAR Testing Shows

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By Susan Min

Although standardized test scores continue to improve across all grade levels in San Bernardino County, Black and Latino students still lag behind White students in both English language arts and math, the 2007 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program STAR demonstrates.

"We do acknowledge that African American and Latino students have had growth over the years. They do still trail behind white students, and this continues to be an area of concentration for the school district and state supervisor," said Christine McGrew, County Office of Education.

San Bernardino County schools grew or maintained their highest-ever levels in proficiencies in 15 of 16 categories on the 2007 STAR report. On the California Standards Test (CST), administered to 329,449 students in grades 2- 11, all 11 grade levels county wide showed growth or maintained their highest proficiency levels in English language arts, while five of the six grade levels show improvement or maintained their proficiencies in math.

"We continue to see improvement across grade levels in math and English language arts, which are positive developments. We still have work to do so that every child is achieving academically," said Herbert Fischer, county superintendent.

The gap between Hispanic (30 percent proficiency) and Black students (29 percent) remains significant with those of White students (53 percent) in English language arts. In math, African American (24 percent proficiency) and Hispanic students (29 percent) trail White students (45 students).

As for the causes of the disparity, San Bernardino County School Board member Danny Tillman says the reasons are not socioeconomic. "Studies show that poor white students do better than middle class African American students," said Tillman, who cites classroom culture as the main problem.

"The current curriculum isn't designed for African American students. The books they read, for example, don't reflect the African American culture or voice. There's a disconnect between black students and their learning materials."

Danny Tillman, a Black school board member for twelve years, remains frustrated at the lack of progress he has seen at county and state levels in addressing the achievement gap.

"We have implemented a program in Rialto schools that specifically targets African-American students, but our effectiveness is limited by lack of state funding and leadership," said Tillman. "There have been a lot of studies done-for four years now-about how African American students are trailing whites, but nobody is doing anything about it. The state needs to step up. We need somebody to have the courage to seriously look at the issue and implement the necessary programs."

Representatives of the County Office of Education say the State Superintendent has pledged to work with districts in solving the problem.

"We are looking at data and research and proven practices. P16 councils in SB county are directly addressing the access and achievement gap," said Christine McGrew of the County Office of Education. "There are a number of reasons why students don't perform in school. Regardless of any reasons, we still have a moral obligation to help all students."

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