Santa Monica High School students exit campus at 3:16pm after the first day of school on Wednesday, Saptember 5, 2007.

The achievement gap is narrowing at local public schools, but white and Asian students continue to outperform other racial groups.

African American, Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students made gains in English and math this past school year, according to the Santa Monica-Malibu School District. Those groups all scored six points higher on average on the English portion of the 2019 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, which assigns scores on a scale of 2,000 to 3,000 points. African American and mixed-race students also scored eight and seven points higher on the test’s math portion.

Gaps in performance along racial and class lines have long plagued the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Administrators brought in UCLA professor Pedro Noguera three years ago to develop a plan to improve equity across the district and have been working on implementing those strategies since then.

While test scores for students of color have improved since 2016, the achievement gap is still very much present in local schools, board of education member Oscar de la Torre said at a board meeting Thursday.

“We have to drill down into that data and figure out where we have the biggest needs,” de la Torre said. “Latino and African American boys have a lot of need … and it’s important to understand what we’re doing for that target population.”

Across the entire student body, math performance continues to lag behind English performance, district staff told the board Thursday. The district released some testing data Thursday via an online dashboard, but the state has not yet made CAASPP results public.

The decline in math performance begins in fifth grade, when the proportion of proficient students drops from above 70% to almost 70%. Math performance continues to drop in middle and high school, reaching about 55%.

Although 80% of high school juniors met or exceeded English standards, the proportion of students who were deemed proficient in English has stalled for the past three years.

English language learners are performing highly on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California, with 80% meeting or exceeding standards.

More students passed their AP tests than in previous years, but African American, Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged, special education and English learner students are still much less likely to take AP classes.

At Thursday’s meeting, board vice president Jon Kean said he thinks district staff should connect trends in the testing data with specific efforts to improve equity in SMMUSD schools.

“This data is telling us, we’re doing good things and there’s an achievement gap,” Kean said. “But have we done something we can draw some data from and see how it all integrates?”

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