Reading Proficiency Among California Students Tested in 2021, by Race/Ethnicity
The annual California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests typically are completed by more than 95% of public-school students statewide in grades 3 through 8 and 11. But testing did not occur in 2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and in 2021 fewer than 25% of students completed the tests.
While the latest data represent only a fraction of students, the results—supported by a California Department of Education analysis of individual students’ scores across time—point to continued struggles with disparities in math and reading proficiency across racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels.
Key 2021 findings:
- Statewide, only about one-third of students who were tested met or exceeded their grade-level standards in math, and less than half of students met or exceeded standards in reading (English language arts).
- Among racial/ethnic groups for which data are available, at least 60% of Asian, Filipino, multiracial, and white students scored proficient in reading, compared with fewer than 45% of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. Math proficiency results show a similar achievement gap between these same groups.
- Students with limited English language skills (English learners)—who tend to have added academic challenges compared with English-fluent students—were less likely to be proficient in reading and math.
- Among students who were socioeconomically disadvantaged—those eligible for free or reduced-price school meals or whose parents did not finish high school—only 20% scored proficient in math versus more than 50% of students who were not disadvantaged. Similarly, just over one-third of disadvantaged students were proficient in reading, compared with about two-thirds of their peers without socioeconomic disadvantage.
Substantial academic inequities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status have endured statewide and nationally for decades. While major education policy reforms have taken place in recent years, California leaders face ongoing challenges in serving six million K-12 public school students, more than half of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged and more than one in six are English learners. Continued efforts are needed to ensure that all students—regardless of race, language, social position, or circumstance—have equitable access to high-quality learning environments, instruction, and supports necessary for their success.
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