For years there has been a gap between the test scores of minority and white students. As a group, Hispanic students are closing in on the gap, but African American students are being left behind. The latest TAKS reading results show that close to one of every two local black fifth graders can't pass their tests.
School districts in Texas are faced with a huge problem: How to improve the TAKS scores of black students. Bryan and College Station are no different.
"As a district we certainly have some work to do for the success of our African American students, said Eddie Coulson, Deputy Superintendent at College Station ISD where 12 percent of the district's population is black.
Of those fifth grade black students who took the TAKS test, less than half passed the reading portion. That's compared to an 83 percent passing rate for Hispanics and a 92 percent passing rate for white children.
Most districts say the reason for lower test scores among black students, and other minorities has to do with economics, not ethnicity.
" Certainly the socio-economic status of the parents, the income level of the home, the occupation and educational level of the parents makes a big difference, said Dr. Frances Mc Arthur, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum at Bryan ISD.
Minority students make up the majority of the student population at Bryan ISD. Twenty-four percent are black. While Hispanic students showed the greatest improvement in TAKS testing, only 53 percent of black fifth graders passed the reading portion of the TAKS.
“Poverty relates to lack of educational resources in the home. As everybody knows, school districts don't educate children by themselves. It's a project that involves the family and the community," said Ken Meier.
Meier conducts studies for the Texas Educational Excellence Project at Texas A&M. The project's findings show Hispanics have made significant strides in keeping up with white students. But the gaps between black and white students haven’t budged. He says there is no clear cut answer to solving the problem, but small steps can be made.
“Deductions in class size benefit African American students more as do improvements in the quality of teachers," said Meier.
Statewide, black students are progressively doing better on the TAKS. Giving districts like Bryan and College Station a realistic goal that isn't out of reach.