Achievement gap closing in San Francisco schools

By: Andrea Koskey | Examiner Staff Writer | 08/16/11

San Francisco schools
California Standard Testing and Reporting, or STAR, released data on San Francisco schools. (AP file photo)
At George Washington High School, Principal Ericka Lovrin and her staff made it a point to focus on minority and historically underachieving students to improve testing and comprehension during the 2010-11 school year.

It appears that work paid off.

Black and Hispanic students increased their scores in math and English more than the San Francisco Unified School District as a whole, essentially slowly closing the achievement gap, according to California Standard Testing and Reporting, or STAR, data released Monday by the California Department of Education.

At Washington High, a typically higher-performing school, Lovrin said they focused on 220 students who were at the basic level and created mentor groups to help them understand the importance of the test and what it takes to become proficient in each subject.

“Some kids hadn’t even seen their scores,” Lovrin said. “So it was a lot of marketing, understanding, tutoring and mentoring.”

Districtwide, black students improved their English scores by 2.7 percent from 2010, while Hispanic kids increased their math scores by 2.2 percent.
Overall, 57.4 percent of San Francisco students in grades two through 11 were proficient or above in English, up 1.1 percent from 2010, according to the data. In math, the number of proficient or above students increased by 0.2 percent from 55.4 percent in 2010 to 55.6 percent in 2011.

Statewide, roughly 54 percent of students are proficient in English compared to just more than 52 percent in 2010, while 50 percent of students are proficient or better in math compared to 48 percent in 2010.

SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia said he wants to eliminate the gap between ethnic students and their white counterparts.

“Only when we eliminate the achievement gap will we be providing equity and access to education,” he said.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students versus their peers is “troubling.”

But Torlakson said though gains have been small year over year, they are large compared to when tests were first administered in 2003.

“Thirty-eight percent was below basic; now it’s about 27 percent,” he said.

STAR testing helps schools and the state determine how well second- through 11th-graders reach California’s standards in language arts, math, science and history.