Alhambra scores increase, but gap is stark

Despite statewide budget cuts and unpaid furlough days, Alhambra Unified students showed improvements in 2011. The district boasted the highest API growth in the area. These rankings are based partially on the Standardized Testing and Results (STAR) scores, which measure student proficiency in English-language arts and mathematics.

AUSD had a 2 point increase in the average number of students scoring at the “proficient” level or higher in English-language arts to 64 percent. That was 10 points higher than the statewide average, which saw a similar increase in scores. In mathematics, which tested grades 2 through 7 in Alhambra, the district did even better. Approximately 73 percent of students scored at the “proficient” level or higher in mathematics, with an average of 46 percent in the “advanced” range. The state average was significantly lower: 50 percent of California students scored at the “proficient” level or higher.

The above average scores, however, appear to be due in large part to the achievements of Asian students. Although incrementally smaller than last year, a stark achievement gap remains between Latino students and white and Asian students. For English-language arts it is about 25 points. In mathematics the gap is even larger: there is a more than 30 point difference between Asian students, who consistently score the highest, and Latino students who score the lowest.  Roughly 88 percent of Asian students and 73 percent of white students in Alhambra Unified score at the “proficient” level or above in mathematics, while 54 percent of Latino students score “proficient” or higher, which is just 4 points above the state average. 

"The gap is closing slowly," AUSD Superintendent Donna Perez said. "It's a steady march day by day to close that gap. There is no secret that will close that gap within a couple of years. We're constantly looking at training that makes a difference when working with our Hispanic students."

This is not a problem unique to Alhambra. While large, the English-language arts gap in Alhambra is smaller by nine points than the statewide one of 34 points. For mathematics it is about the same as the state gap. Interestingly, the gap between white and Latino students is smaller in Alhambra than statewide. There is a 28.6 point gap between the average score for Latino and white students in California and a 17.6 point gap between the two ethnicities in Alhambra.  

Visit the California Department of Education website to view the 2011 STAR report.

6 thoughts on “Alhambra scores increase, but gap is stark”

  1. During the summer I saw the following posted here and wrote the only comment copied below. I think this is also an issue this article addresses so am re-posting it.

    Asian Pacific Family Center (APFC) will be hosting L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Diversity)
    http://www.alhambrasource.org/announcements/leadership-seminar-high-scho

    “Last year Anthony Perez wrote about the lack of Hispanic student participation in student leadership roles at Alhambra High school. Maybe some of this is the reason why:
    Where are the Hispanic/Latino community organizations or city leaders mentoring and training Hispanic students to become leaders? Where are the Hispanic/Latino community resources for afterschool tutoring and academic support? Its not happening because our community doesn’t put its own priorities for this into action. The Asian community here sets the success of its kids as a priority and puts time, energy and money into action to make that happen. They don’t rely on the Alhambra Unified schools to be the only place for kids to learn.
    Where are the community based Hispanic /Latino run and organized afterschool academic programs? (the Thunderbirds football, or Little League, or AYSO don’t count) If they are out there I would love to hear about them. I could give the info to parents who will be upset with me because I won’t sign off on the football progress report because their kid is failing my class and they what them to play the game this week. (usually they just stop giving me the report after that).
    If you want to see the results of this lack of parental and community support just look at the STAR test and see the gap between the Hispanic and Asian scores. The schools can only do so much when the community and families don’t make it a priority.”

  2. alhambra school district hired someone to start a ‘gateway’ program, gateway being very desired for students, then alhambra unified laid off the co ordinator because of a lack of applicants.
    alhambra unified never advertised that it was having a ‘gateway’ program for gifted, telling the administrator that there were no applicants. it was pointed out that alhambra unified did not alert parents of this program, and the new administrator was told it was the responsibility of the parents to notify each other about the program for the gifted.
    go figure, so many students from alhambra have lost out
    parents, time to get angry with administration
    sooo catch 22

    1. @ chrisitine

      Interesting story you have. I find it curious to know what where the duties of the laid-off coordinator. This person should have been given specific guidlines on how to “coordinate” this program with the school and students. I’m the program manager/custodian for several programs at my work and I’m given specific guidelines on my duties. I often have questions about my responsibilities but my work environment allows me to have several resources (tech. support/upper management, etc.) to answer my doubts or concerns. I don’t believe it should have been the responsibility of the parents to notify each other of the program. Perhaps we need to look further in how Alhambra school district people are running their programs. I work for the Federal government and we get audited (Command HQ) and inspected by QA (local Quality Assurance) REGULARLY. However, this is on the military side, not the civilian side. Where is the accountability in our school’s administration? I won’t be surprised if money comes into play for these matters.

  3. John G. You bring up great points. These standardized tests don’t tell the whole picture. Eric, great leads for future analysis. I wonder about the role that ” high expectations” ( or lack of) from parents, teachers & community have on these students. I would like to see more data supporting the superintendent’s statement about the achievement gap as well 🙂

  4. Good article but we must always be aware of the various factors of what makes a student academically successful or not. Race and educational scores alone are not the only comparative factors in assessing other issues such as the jobless rate or disparities in family income. It’s important to recognize the patterns of social welfare in hopes of finding solutions. However, we must also accept the differences of various peoples and let them decide what is best for them.

  5. Jennifer – excellent article.  Your continued coverage of education issues is very much appreciated by many of us.

    It would be great to have more people openly discuss these issues in an effort to help close the gap.  The comments below are open to everyone and just meant to stir interest in the hopes of getting a good thread going:

    It would be interesting to fold in the economic data vis-a-vis ethnicities.  The poverty rate of our student body is staggering.  How does our performance compare to other districts with similar poverty rates.  Is poverty disproportionate among one ethnic group vs. another, and does this tell us something about the importance of financial stability on a student's performance.  That is, does the achievement gap data show starker disparities based on race or family income?

    It would be interesting to see the sample size of the AUSD data (e.g., number of white students may be too low to get a good comparison relative to state numbers, etc.).

    It would also be interesting to see the historical trend of the achievement gap and compare with the jobless rate.  Is the gap truly getting smaller as the superintendent states?  How does it compare when folding in the changing demographics.

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