Data Shows Racial Gap In Achievement Is Wide

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Data the Ohio Department of Education made available Tuesday prove what critics of the state's proficiency test system have been saying for years -- wide gaps in achievement scores exist among racial groups.

For the first time, the age and race data will be published in district report cards the state issues later this year because the Legislature required that in last year's Senate Bill 1.

"We're putting it on the table to publicly discuss," said Patti Grey, the department's spokeswoman.

In Ohio, 80 percent of students are white and 16.5 percent are black. Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans make up less then five percent of students.

The gap is largest in the fourth and sixth grades, where an average of 33 percent of black students performed at levels considered proficient in the five test areas, compared with an average of 68 percent of white students. That's a difference of 35 percentage points.

For example, in reading last fall, only 27.6 percent of black fourth-graders met the state standard compared with 62.3 percent of whites. In writing, only 59.8 percent of blacks met the standard while 83.5 percent of whites did.

Sixth-graders experienced similar disparities.

In science and citizenship, 23.7 percent and 35.6 percent of blacks, respectively, met the standards. Meanwhile, 68.3 percent of whites met the science standard, while 75.8 percent of whites met the citizenship benchmark.

The difference between the achievement of blacks and whites decreases in high school years. It was 18 percentage points in the ninth-grade and 28 percentage points in the 12th grade.

"There's no one-size-fits-all solution to closing the gap," Grey said.

State Sen. C.J. Prentiss, a Democrat from Cleveland and a longtime critic of Ohio's proficiency test system, said the solution is smaller class sizes and teachers certified in the subject areas that they teach.

"If the proper resources are there to provide an education for the kids then you close that gap," Prentiss said. "We have not seen the level of leadership from the Education Department to address this issue."

Grey said the state has worked to ensure all children have the same expectations, low-performing students get the help they need and that competent teachers are in every classroom.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)