Barely more than half of California's public schoolchildren showed they were "proficient" in math -- and just 57 percent in reading and writing -- during the latest round of standardized tests taken this spring, according to results released Friday by the state Department of Education.
In Alameda County, that percentage was slightly higher, with 62 percent of children testing proficient in reading and 55 percent in math, though the results varied widely by school district.
The grade-by-grade results show how many children were deemed proficient or better on state reading, math, science and social studies exams.
In a news release, state Superintendent Tom Torlakson touted the increase in student performance since 2003, the year the exams were fully aligned to the state's content standards. He noted that 57 percent of the children hit that mark on the reading exam and 51 percent did so in math, compared to just 35 percent in both subjects nine years earlier.
"In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient to better than one student in two," Torlakson said. "Even more remarkable is the fact that our students continue to make gains even as our schools -- and the teachers, administrators and school employees working in them -- are getting by with so much less."
Still, the achievement gap between the poor and their more affluent peers remains as wide as it was in 2003: 21 percentage points in math and 29 percentage points in reading, statewide. In other words, only about one-quarter of low-income children reached proficiency in math, compared to 45 percent of their peers.
The performance gap between black and Latino and traditionally higher-scoring white and Asian students narrowed slightly during those nine years but only by a handful of percentage points. The chasm remains wide: 73 percent of the state's white students and 78 percent of its Asian students were deemed proficient in reading and writing, for example, compared to 45 percent of black students and 46 percent of Latinos.
Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy and director of the Policy Analysis for California Education based at UC Berkeley and Stanford University gave this assessment: "No budging of the achievement gaps ... no progress. Everybody is inching upward together."
In the coming weeks, the state education department will release another set of numbers based on these results and others, the three-digit Academic Performance Index. Along with that report will come news of whether schools met the federal No Child Left Behind goals.
The results can be found on the California Department of Education's site at http://star.cde.ca.gov.