LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Less than half of all California students passed new math and English tests aligned with the Common Core standards and considered indicators of college and career readiness, according to results released Wednesday.

Forty-four percent of students in third through eighth and 11th grades met or exceeded the new language-arts assessment, while 34 percent passed the math test. Though state education officials cautioned against drawing comparisons with previous standardized tests, the results reflect long-standing achievement gaps between low-income and affluent students.

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“They indicate we have a long way to go,” Michael Kirst, president of the state Board of Education, said of the scores. “We knew that, and our motto has been ‘patience, persistence and humility.'”

The assessments, called Smarter Balanced, test understanding of the new Common Core standards, benchmarks for what students should master by the end of each grade in reading and math. Though the standards have been met with resistance in much of the nation, they have been widely accepted in California.

Just 1 percent of California students did not take the exam, while in New York, by comparison, about 20 percent of third- through eighth-graders refused to take the test. Opponents have criticized the standards as a federal intrusion into local education systems, though they were developed by a consortium of state and education leaders.

The assessments are also fundamentally different in how they evaluate student knowledge. The state’s previous Standardized Testing and Reporting program was a paper-and-pencil multiple choice test. The Smarter Balanced exam is designed to be taken by tablet or computer and is adaptive. Students must show how they reached their answers, and if they answer correctly, they get a more difficult question.

“It’s like no test you probably ever took as a parent,” Kirst said. “It’s a dawn of a new era.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is one of two groups of states formed to create Common Core-aligned assessments. Several other states that took Smarter Balanced exams have released their results, which as a whole appear to be similar to California’s. The second testing group, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, has not released results.

Overall, English scores have been higher in every state than math results. In Vermont, for example, English proficiency scores were slightly below 60 percent and dipped as low as 37 percent in math.

In California, students scored differently based on demographics:



Passing English:

— 49 percent of girls.

— 38 percent of boys.

Passing math:

— 34 percent of both boys and girls.



Passing English:

— 28 percent of black students.

— 32 percent of Latino students.

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— 72 percent of Asian-American students.

— 61 percent of white students.

Passing math:

— 16 percent of blacks.

— 21 percent of Hispanics.

— 69 percent of Asian-Americans.

— 49 percent of whites.



— 11 percent of English-learner students passed the math test.

— 21 percent of low-income students met or exceeded math standards.


“If anything this underscores the need to continue to focus on equity and the importance of having Common Core to get our students college and career ready,” said Ryan Smith, executive director of Ed Trust-West, a nonprofit working to close the achievement gap. “We’ll need to continue to focus on implementation in order to narrow the gaps we’re seeing.”

The scores highlight gaps among districts as well: In a comparison of 12 urban districts statewide, San Francisco Unified students scored at the top in reading and math. About half passed both subjects. The San Francisco district has focused teacher strategies on implementing the standards, including creating curricula for every grade level aligned to the standards.

“We’re thrilled but we’re not satisfied,” said Gentle Blythe, a spokeswoman for the district. “What this shows us is we’re moving in the right direction. We still have a lot to improve upon.”

Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest district, had significantly lower scores: Twenty-five percent of its students passed the math standards and 33 percent passed reading. District officials said teachers will use the data to determine which areas to focus on.

“This is not a time to be pleased or displeased with the results,” Superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a letter to the district’s board of education Tuesday. “These assessments provide a roadmap for how we can better prepare our students to be college-prepared and career ready.”

“We’re concerned. We understand that there are significant areas where we need to put more resources,” said Steve Zimmer, the LAUSD School Board President, who cautioned that the scores are just a benchmark.

“Whenever we transition to a new testing platform, and this platform is very, very different, there’s always going to be a dip in results,” Zimmer added.

In Orange County, students fared better, with 53 percent meeting or exceeding the English standard. In math, 45 percent of Orange County students met or exceeded the standard.

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