Equity & Diversity

Hispanic Students’ Math Performance on Steady Uptick, Report Says

By Denisa R. Superville — November 10, 2014 4 min read
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Hispanic students’ performance on 4th and 8th grade national math exams improved significantly between 2003 and 2013, with an increase in some cases that amounted to the equivalent of one grade level, according to a new report released Monday by The Child Trends Hispanic Institute, a Bethesda, Md.-based education research firm.

Charlotte, Boston and Houston were among the “notable” big-city school districts in which Hispanic students showed significant long-term (10-year) gains on 4th grade math assessments.

The report, “Math Scores Add Up for Hispanic Students,” analyzed mathematic assessment data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is also known as the nation’s report card.

NAEP math test scores for Hispanic students rose by as much as nine points in 4th grade and 13 points in 8th grade between the 2003 administration of the exam and 2013, according to the report. In 4th grade, that meant an increase from 221 in 2003 to 230 in 2013. For 8th graders, average scores rose from 258 in 2003 to 271 in 2013. NAEP scores are out of a possible 500.

Over that same decade, two out of three states saw statistically significant increases in both 4th grade and 8th grade math scores, according to the report. The difference between the highest performers in 4th grade—such as Indiana—and the lowest performers—such as Utah&mdash was the equivalent of about two grade levels. In 8th grade, the difference between top and bottom performers was 2.5 grade levels.

The report lauded Indiana, Hawaii, the Department of Defense Education Activity, North Carolina and Florida for their Hispanic students’ 2013 NAEP 4th grade math scores, which ranged from 242 in Indiana to 238 in Florida; and the DoDEA, New Jersey, Texas and Maryland for 8th grade scores, which ranged from 283 on the high end to 280 on the lower end among the states where Hispanic student performance was highest.

In the states with significant change in 4th grade performance, the District of Columbia and Hawaii saw the most movement with a 22 point increase in scores during the period of review. (Both also made significant improvement in 8th grade scores.)

In 8th grade, Arkansas topped the list with a 25 point increase; followed by Massachusetts, with a 22 point increase, then New Jersey with 21 points.

Overall, American students’ performance in math is still middling. Only 42 percent of 4th graders and 35 percent of 8th graders are proficient in math, according to NAEP 2013 data. And despite the gains, Hispanic students’ scores nationally are still in need of improvement: only 26 percent of Hispanic 4th graders were proficient in the subject, while it was 21 percent for 8th graders. For white students, proficiency was 54 percent for 4th graders and 45 percent for 8th graders.

The report does not delve into the reasons for the upward trajectory in the scores of Hispanic students, though it notes that it could be result of a number of factors, including demographic changes and school reform initiatives. It also does not address the achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white peers.

In all the states, more than half of the Hispanic students that participated in the 2013 assessments were eligible to participate in the national school lunch program, ranging from 90 percent in Alabama to 56 percent in North Dakota.

The report’s author, Natalia E. Pane, notes that since Hispanic students make up a growing percentage of the public school student population and 40 percent of those students in big-city school districts, the results should be a source of hope.

Nationally, all different subgroups of Hispanic students showed increases in their 4th and 8th grade mathematics test scores, according to the report.

Nationally, the gains in 8th grade were lower for Puerto Rican and Puerto Rican American students, while they were higher for Mexican Americans (or Chicanos), Cuban and Cuban-American students, according to the report.

When looking at large cities, however, increases in Cuban and Cuban Americans’ math scores were significantly higher than for other subgroups, according to the report. In 2003, they had among the lowest scores among all Hispanic subgroups in both grades. By 2013, they had gained 20 to 24 points, putting them among the other subgroups.

In the urban school districts that participate in the Trial Urban District Assessment, or TUDA, the Hispanic students’ average math score rose by 10 points in grade 4 and 14 in grade eight over the 10-year period—or at least one grade level, according to the report.

For urban districts participating in TUDA, the scores varied widely. The top-tier districts for both grades in 2013 were Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough County, Fla., Austin, Dallas, Houston and Boston. The lowest-scoring districts were Los Angeles, Cleveland, Fresno, and Detroit for both grades. San Diego was among the lowest-scoring districts for 8th grade; Philadelphia for 4th grade.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Source: Math Scores Add Up for Hispanic Students.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.