Friday, February 02, 2007

In the Lodi Unified School District, Filipinos scored the highest on the 2006 standardized tests

Keith Reid:

Lodi Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett has called upon principals and teachers in the district's 47 schools to be more cognitive of racial and cultural factors that may cause some groups of students to perform lower than others on standardized tests.

In a letter sent out to principals last week and expected to be distributed to all teachers, Huyett addresses the district's diverse student population and points to what he calls an "achievement gap" between minority students and white students.

"My letter follows a similar call to action sent out by (California Superintendent of Public Instruction) Jack O'Connell and is not meant to call anybody racially insensitive. We're looking for leadership. We're on a mission to close the achievement gap," Huyett said.

The achievement gap Huyett points to can be seen in data compiled by the California Department of Education, which monitors how well schools and districts are teaching students based on a series of standardized tests. The test scores are cataloged on a grading system called the Academic Performance Index.

As a district, Lodi Unified had a 2006 API score of 696 and is categorized by state educators as a "program improvement district," meaning it has failed in recent years to meet state-mandated goals to improve its test scores. The goal for all school districts and individual schools is an API score of 800, according to the state's Education Department.

California educators break down API data by student subgroups based on race, ethnicity and poverty. In Lodi Unified, the Filipino subgroup scored the highest on the 2006 standardized tests, with a score of 771. Students with disabilities scored the lowest, with a score of 474. Other breakdown are:

American Indian/Alaskan Natives (725), whites (761), Pacific Islanders (718), Asians (706), Latinos (640), socioeconmically disadvantaged students (640), English learners (634) and blacks (607).

Huyett's letter suggests there is a certain level of institutional racism within Lodi Unified schools that stems from a long history of racial issues in society, the superintendent confirmed Tuesday.

Teachers have been individually shy to comment on the idea of racism in schools. Sue Kenmotsu, president of the teachers union, said few teachers have contacted her office regarding the letter. The ones who have, she said, were upset by its connotations that some teachers are racially insensitive.

However, she said she's not surprised by Huyett's letter and noted that he wrote a similar letter to school administrators last winter.

"Closing the achievement gap is a goal that was made by the Board of Trustees. We know that this is an issue in the district," Kenmotsu said. "Other than that, there may be an annoyance factor that teachers have done everything the district has asked us to do, and now we're asked to do more."

If racism was really the cause of the differences in test scores then how does Huyett explain the fact that Filipinos outperformed whites?

Student scores highlight glaring achievement gap

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