A new study from the Chalkboard Project reveals a stark reality for Oregon's students of color. The report, which bases its findings on data from the Oregon Department of Education, shows an early and persistent gap between the achievement of Hispanic students and that of their White peers.
The gap appears by the time students have reached the 3rd grade and remains fairly consistent throughout their school careers. Such an achievement gap mirrors findings from the Chalkboard Project's 2008 study on the Black-White Achievement Gap in Multnomah County.
Although Hispanic students and Black students each face unique challenges, findings show that both minority groups are more likely than White students to change schools and be taught by inexperienced teachers. These characteristics can be potential barriers to success for any student.
Both reports also show that although the achievement gap may be perceived to be widening from 3rd to 10th grade based on the number of students meeting or exceeding benchmark, the difference in achievement test scores stays fairly consistent.
"The findings of this report are discouraging, but not surprising," said Eduardo Angulo, executive director of the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality. "It is time that we stop making excuses and start taking aggressive action. All of us must work together to close the achievement gap. Teachers, administrators, parents and communities must be involved if our Hispanic students are going to receive the education they deserve."
Key findings of The Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Oregon:
-- At most Oregon schools, Hispanic students learn at about the same rate as other students, although they often start far behind their White peers. The achievement gap varies little from 3rd through 10th grade based on Oregon's standardized achievement test scores.
----ESL (English as a Second Language) programs may accelerate student learning. On average, Hispanic students who remained in ESL between 3rd and 6th grades gained about three points in reading relative to non-ESL Whites. However, these students still remain about 12 points behind non-ESL Whites by the end of 6th grade. Non-ESL Hispanics and ESL students exiting the program before 6th grade also narrow the achievement gap relative to non-ESL White students, ending 6th grade three to six points behind non-ESL Whites. This means that although ESL Hispanics are narrowing the gap, English language proficiency is of critical importance to closing the gap.
-- Oregon's Hispanic student population faces significant barriers to academic success.
Hispanic students are more than twice as likely as White students to be economically disadvantaged.
Half of all Hispanic students are enrolled in ESL, compared to only one percent of Whites and ten percent of other racial and ethnic groups.
The study also identifies forty-two Oregon schools that are closing the gap in either reading, math, or both subjects. Those identified include twenty-nine elementary schools, six middle schools and seven high schools.
"The Salem-Keizer School District has the largest number of Hispanic students of any district in the state so we see the effects of the achievement gap every day," said Sandy Husk, Superintendent of Salem-Keizer School District. "We also see highly effective teachers that are making a difference and schools that are beating the odds. We need to focus on what is working if we really want to raise the achievement level of all students."
Sue Hildick, President of the Chalkboard Project, notes, "While the achievement gap is unacceptable, the forty-two Oregon schools closing the gap provide us hope of potential models of success. We encourage organizations such as the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality and the Oregon Department of Education to use the information from this report to bring about the change Oregon's Hispanic students need and deserve."
View the list of Oregon schools that are successfully closing the Hispanic achievement gap in the full report, The Hispanic-White Achievement Gap in Oregon.
View the 2008 report, A Deeper Look at the Black-White Achievement Gap in Multnomah County.
The study was conducted by ECONorthwest with funding from Chalkboard Project.