This week, California’s release of the fifth year of student scores on the Smarter Balanced tests provides an opportunity to assess if the state is moving in the right direction after nearly a decade of education reform.

There were some bright spots — most notably improvements in Latino student performance which are contributing to narrowing the achievement gap. This is a significant development, given that Latino students make up more than half of the state’s public school students. Gaps between less and more affluent students, and between English learners and other students are also narrowing.

But significant achievement gaps remain, especially those experienced by African American students. That is especially the case when it comes to math. Only about 40 percent of the state’s students met or exceeded the math standards on the tests, compared to about half who did so in English language arts. We talk with Lisa Andrew, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which offers a summer math program for thousands of students who have fallen behind.  

Providing insights into the lagging education performance of many African American students, a new UCLA report titled Beyond the Schoolhouse also came out this week. We interview Tyrone Howard, a professor of education at UCLA who co-authored the report. It paints a compelling picture of the many adverse factors in and outside of school affecting the 109,000 African American students in Los Angeles County, and urges a comprehensive approach to overcome the obstacles.

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