Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health      

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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | March 10, 2016

California’s Latino and Black Students Make Gains in Math Proficiency

"The Math Revolution," an article in this month’s issue of The Atlantic, discusses a key set of American students who are increasingly excelling at world-class math. Last year, the US won first place in the International Mathematical Olympiad, the writer cites. But gains aren’t just taking place at the highest echelons of high school academia. Kidsdata’s newest data on math proficiency in California (for both the CAHSEE and CAASPP exams) give us a snapshot of how our students are faring in this key subject. Although California ranks below the national average in student math scores, these new data reveal that 10th graders in our state, from all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, experienced a notable rise in math achievement over the past decade.

Statewide, 85 percent of 10th-grade students passed the high school exit exam in math in 2015, signaling a 15 percent rise since 2005. When broken down by race, however, it’s clear that the largest gains were made among Latino and Black students, who each saw a 29 percent improvement. In 2015, 80 percent of Latino 10th graders and 71 percent of Black 10th graders passed the high school exit exam in math, compared to 62 percent and 55 percent a decade earlier. When broken down by socioeconomic status, the decade-long trend shows that 30% more economically disadvantaged 10th graders passed the high school exit exam in math, versus 9% more of their higher income peers. Still, disparities remain, with 93 percent of higher income 10th graders passing the exam versus 79 percent of economically disadvantaged students.

Basic math skills are essential to navigate through life, and competence in mathematics is associated with readiness for the workplace and higher future earnings. Math proficiency also is a predictor of college attendance. Nationwide, increasing emphasis is being placed on children's achievement in mathematics, science, technology, and engineering, recognizing the importance of these fields in the country's future and ability to innovate.

Significant education policy changes have taken place in California and the U.S. in recent years, such as the state's Local Control Funding Formula, the Common Core State Standards, the Smarter Balanced Assessment System, and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Policymakers now face challenges in effectively implementing these large-scale changes, which have the potential to reduce long-standing achievement gaps in math proficiency by race/ethnicity, income level, disability status, and English Learner status.

According to experts, policy options that could improve math proficiency include ensuring that all children have access to high-quality preschool or kindergarten readiness programs, which lay the foundation for later achievement; supporting effective strategies to involve families in school; and ensuring that all students have access to high-quality Common Core-aligned curricula and other classroom support.


Related Data:

Helpful Links

California Dept. of Education: Mathematics

Changing the Equation: Ensuring the Common Core Math Standards Enable All Students to Excel in California Schools, Education Trust–West

Improving the Opportunities and Outcomes of California's Students Learning English: Findings from School District–University Collaborative Partnerships, Policy Analysis for California Education

The Progress of Education Reform: Math in the Early Years: A Strong Predictor for Later School Success, Education Commission of the States

Student Achievement in California: 2015 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Results, Education Trust–West

The Power of Parents: Research Underscores the Impact of Parent Involvement in Schools, EdSource and New America Media

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Tenth Grade Students Passing the High School Exit Exam in Math, by Race/Ethnicity
Years: 2005 to 2015

Math Mascots is a program of the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children's Health, which uses data to promote the health and well being of children.
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