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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 25, 2008
Stats show low-income students fare poorly, girls outscore boys
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Students from low-income homes here do markedly worse than their classmates, according to data compiled by the Guilderland School District in its annual report card.
A presentation to the school board last week on results from government-required tests taken in the 2006-07 school year did not address scores broken out along gender, economic, or ethnic lines. But the differences are most pronounced between economically disadvantaged students and their classmates.
Also, while previous generations of girls were impressed with a stereotype that boys did better at math and science, girls, for the most part, are scoring better than their male counterparts in all subjects.
“We take apart all the data and look at it in different ways,” Mary Helen Collen, the district’s data coordinator, told The Enterprise this week when asked about the disparities and about any programs the school might have to close the gaps. “We look at all the subgroups that are identified race, ethnicity, poverty.”
On ethnic differences, she said, “We have such small populations of different ethnicities that it is statistically insignificant.” Of the Asians, she said, “They’ve traditionally done extremely well as a group”; she surmised being “first generation” in America could make a difference.
On girls’ outperforming boys, she said, “We talk about it. I don’t know if we’d devise programs. It’s not that much of a discrepancy…We look at what books are of interest to boys,” she said to encourage their reading.
Of the economically disadvantaged students who lag behind their classmates, Collen said, “We look at them very, very carefully. Sometimes, these students are also the ones with disabilities.”
In 2006-07, six percent of Guilderland students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, an indicator that they come from low-income families.
Collen said the poor performance of students from poor families is a nationwide trend. “We don’t have any set programs but teachers pay special attention to it,” said Collen. “The teachers discuss it in the NCLB and pay attention to poverty.”
Each school has a No Child Left Behind committee, made up of special-education and regular-education teachers as well as reading teachers, supervisors and the principal, Collen said. The committee “dissects” the data, she said, and “highlights” problems.
The report card data shows that, in the English Language Arts tests given to students in third through eighth grades, female students do better than male students.
Tests are graded at four performance levels. Proficiency is defined as scoring at the top two levels, 3 and 4.
In math, third-grade boys and girls were about even in 2006-07 but fourth-grade boys pulled ahead of girls slightly in math and science. Fifth-grade boys and girls were about even in math. By sixth grade, and again in seventh and eighth grades, girls had pulled ahead in math. Boys were slightly ahead in eighth-grade science.
By and large, the biggest difference between boys and girls came in the percentages scoring at Level 4. For example, 16 percent of fourth-grade girls scored at Level 4 in English, while only 5 percent of boys did.
At the secondary level, the 2003 cohort the students who entered together as ninth-graders in 2003 after four years of English instruction showed some gender disparity. Ninety-four percent of females scored at levels 3 or 4 compared to 91 percent of males, and 71 percent of females scored at Level 4 compared to 55 percent of males.
In math, for the 2003 cohort, the difference was less pronounced but the females were still ahead: 95 percent of the females scored at levels 3 or 4 and 56 percent at Level 4 compared to 93 percent of the males at levels 3 and 4 and 49 percent at Level 4.
While the difference between boys and girls, in most cases, was just a few percentage points, economically disadvantaged students fared worse than their classmates in all subjects at all grades sometimes by large amounts.
For example, 42 percent of economically disadvantaged Guilderland students scored at levels 3 or 4 for fourth-grade English, compared to 83 percent of those who were not disadvantaged. Only 3 percent of the economically disadvantaged students scored at Level 4, while 12 percent of the students who were not disadvantaged scored at the top level.
At the secondary level for the 2003 cohort, in English, after four years of instruction, only 75 percent of the economically disadvantaged students scored at levels 3 and 4 (compared to 93 percent of the not disadvantaged) and only 31 percent at Level 4 (compared to 63 percent of the not disadvantaged). The results were similar for math.
Across the grades and subjects, Asian students, by and large, scored higher, sometimes by a lot, than their white or African-American counterparts.
In fourth-grade science, for example, 95 percent of African-American students and 96 percent of white students scored at levels 3 or 4, while 62 percent of African-American students and 64 percent of white students scored at Level 4. By comparison, 100 percent of Asian students scored at levels 3 or 4 and 95 percent scored at Level 4.
At the secondary level, for the 2003 cohort, in English, after four years of instruction, 89 percent of African-American students, 93 percent of white students, and 96 percent of Asian students scored at levels 3 or 4, and 42 percent of African-American students, 64 percent of white students, and 71 percent of Asian students scored at Level 4.
The cohort included 19 African-American students, 412 white students, and 24 Asian or Pacific Islander students.
In math, for the 2003 cohort, after four years of instruction, 89 percent of African-American students, 94 percent of white students, and 100 percent of Asian students scored in levels 3 or 4 while 32 percent of African-American students, 53 percent of white students, and 79 percent of Asian students scored at Level 4.