LOS ANGELES (AP) — Students in California improved their scores on an annual statewide exam but most still aren't meeting the more challenging standards for math and reading, according to results released Wednesday.
Thirty-seven percent of students tested met or exceeded the state's math standards on the Smarter Balanced exam. Reading scores were higher, with 49 percent in all grades tested meeting or exceeding English expectations.
For the second year in a row with new online testing, a majority of white students met or exceeded expectations while a minority of Hispanic and black students did so.
"Of course there's more work to do, but our system has momentum," said California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Federal law requires students to be tested annually in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.
Students in California and other states that adopted the Common Core standards began taking exams aligned to the new math and reading requirements for the first time last year.
The Common Core standards are designed to ensure students are ready for college or careers and the new tests are significantly different than the multiple choice paper-and-pencil exams most were used to taking.
The new online test asks progressively more difficult questions after students answer correctly.
Educators braced for lower scores last year as students and teachers adjusted to the new standards and tests.
California has also suspended its school accountability system as the state Board of Education develops a new school performance assessment that takes into account a range of educational indicators besides test scores.
The second year of testing showed gains in both tested subjects across all groups but reinforced long-standing achievement gaps between students by race and ethnicity, English language learner status, disability and economic status.
In math, 53 percent of white students met or exceeded expectations, compared to 24 percent of Hispanic students and 18 percent of black students.
In English, 64 percent of white students met or exceeded the new standards compared with 37 percent of Hispanic students and 29 percent of black students.
Torlakson said rising scores can be attributed to more familiarity with taking the test online, an extra year of teaching the new state standards and improvements in technology. But he expressed concern with the achievement gaps.
"The achievement gap is pernicious and persistent," he said. "And we all need to work together to find solutions that help all groups rise, while narrowing the gap."
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