Black students improve on ISAT, scores still lag behind white students

Black elementary school students attending Chicago Public Schools continue to improve on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test each school year. Black students went from 54.2 percent meeting or exceeding state standards on the ISAT in the 2006- 2007 sch

Black elementary school students attending Chicago Public Schools continue to improve on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test each school year.

Black students went from 54.2 percent meeting or exceeding state standards on the ISAT in the 2006-2007 school year, to 58.3 percent in the 2007-2008 school year. And since 2001, when the percentage of Black students meeting or exceeding state standards was 30.5 percent, the percentage has nearly doubled, according to CPS officials.

But they still lag behind their white counterparts.

In the 2006-2007 academic year, 85.3 percent of white students met or exceeded state standards on the ISAT, while 85 percent met or exceeded state standards in 2007- 2008.

Each year, the ISAT is given to public school students in third through eighth grade. Overall, CPS students improved across the board in reading, math and science.

Students took the ISAT in April and results in reading, math and science are up 1.3 percentage points from the previous school year’s 64.1 percent rate, according to state records.

That means more than 65 percent of third- through eighth-graders passed the ISAT, a record high, according to CPS officials.

“A true apples-to-apples comparison, this year to last year, shows larger gains, but it all points to the fact that our core strategies are working,’’ said Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “And we’re proud that district-wide, more of our students are finding themselves in the exceeding-state-standards category across subjects.”

Marcus Robinson, 48, does not embrace the results fully, in part because his son’s ISAT score exceeded the state average, but his son still does not know multiplication.

“My son is in fifth grade at a South Side public school I’d rather not name and has never been taught multiplication at his school,” Robinson said. “Too many schools like my son’s school are passing students to the next grade based on merit or attendance when it should be based on their knowledge of how to do their work.”

Overall, fifth-graders made a particularly significant improvement, going from 52.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in the 2006-2007 to 60.1 percent this past school year. In 2001, only 34.5 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded standards in reading.

Chicago School Board President Rufus Williams said that the test results also indicate CPS is on track to close the achievement gap that exists between inner-city and suburban schools.

“These steady gains over multiple schools are moving us in the right direction to close the achievement gap,” he said. “It’s the kind of progress you want to see. It is real improvement, year after year.”

But the scoring disparity among white and Black students continue to widen each year, said Joe Young, 64, a retired Indiana State University (Terra Haute, Ind.) African American Studies professor.

“When Blacks outperform whites, then we can celebrate,” Young said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to see Black students improving in reading, math and science but compared to the improvement by whites, Blacks still have a long way to go.”

Some parents agree with Young. “All this talk about test scores are up for Black students but what about the white kids’ scores?” said Vernell Richardson, 42, whose daughter is a seventh grader at Bethune elementary school on the West Side. “They still scored higher than minorities so Black students are still behind as far as I’m concerned.”

CPS is the largest school district in the state with a student enrollment around 405,000.

Wendell Hutson can be reached via email at whutson@chicagodefender.com.

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