- For the first time, New Jersey yesterday released school
test results by race and the differences were staggering.
- A huge racial gap in success rates exists for public
school fourth-grade students in science, math and language arts. Similar
disparities were found among eighth and 11th graders.
- Math scores showed the greatest differences, in both
urban and suburban districts.
- Statewide, 78 percent of all white students were proficient
or higher. The same category for blacks was 35 percent, 85 percent for
Asians, and 48 percent for Hispanics.
- Students not scoring at least proficient - in this case,
65 percent of black fourth graders in the state - fall below the state
minimum and may be most in need of instructional support, according to
- Pennsylvania released data last year that found similar
- In Burlington County, 53 percent of black students were
at least proficient in math, compared with 62 percent for Hispanics, 81
percent for whites, and 82 percent for Asians.
- In Camden County, 44 percent of black students were at
least proficient in math, 46 percent of Hispanics, 82 percent of whites,
and 86 percent of Asians.
- In Gloucester County, 35 percent of blacks were at least
proficient in math, 44 percent of Hispanics, 79 percent of whites, and
87 percent of Asians.
- The county scores exclude special education and limited
English-speaking students. Statewide percentages include all students.
- "Those test scores mean the system and the community
have failed those kids," said Gloucester County NAACP Chairman Milton
Hinton, who worked last year to bring more minority teachers to the county.
- The disparity in test scores between white and minority
students reflects a national trend, but state education officials said
the results raise concerns.
- "It should not matter where a child goes to school,"
state Department of Education Commissioner Vito A. Gagliardi Sr. said in
a statement. "He or she should have an equal opportunity to succeed."
- Harvard University Professor Gary Olfield, an expert
in education and social policy, attributes much of the racial gap to differences
in parent education, income, and segregated schools.
- "The basic problems aren't a big mystery,"
Olfield said. "It would just take a lot of money and a lot of courage
to fix them. New Jersey has made some success in a generation's worth of
court rulings, but there's a lot further to go."
- The scores suggest that districts across the board are
doing a poor job educating economically disadvantaged students. For example,
only 40 percent of those students were proficient or advanced proficient
in math, compared with 77 percent for non-economically disadvantaged students.
- Even when controlling for income levels, the gap still
exists, the results found. In the state's more affluent suburban districts,
for example, 55 percent of black students were proficient or advanced proficient
in math, 70 percent of Hispanics, 87 percent of whites, and 91 percent
- The gap widened among eighth and 11th graders in the
three subjects when compared with the difference among fourth graders.
State officials say younger students benefited from the state's whole school
reform and curriculum changes implemented when they entered school.
- For example, while the white-to-black comparison for
math was 78 percent to 35 percent among fourth graders, it was wider at
74 percent against 29 percent in the eighth grade.
- Educators from around the region reacted warily yesterday
to the state's decision to release the scores according to race.
- "I applaud what the state is trying in making us
more aware that we have a very diverse community," said Edgewater
Park School Superintendent Scott Streckenbein. "But there are so many
factors that contribute to children's abilities. The standardized test
is the capture of a kid's knowledge on a given day at a given time."
- Marilyn Allen, principal at Camden's Whittier School,
said tests are not a true reflection of how well minorities perform academically.
"Do they tell the truth as to what the children actually know? I don't
think it does," she said.
- Said Willingboro superintendent Alonzo Kittrels: "I'm
not going to accept that race is a contributing factor." Kittrels
said "a child's environment has a lot to do with what's happening."
- Hinton, of the NAACP, said he feared a backlash from
the scores. People may conclude that "African Americans are not serious
about education, and won't focus on the reason this is happening,"
- Carmen Mitcho, principal of the Thomas E. Bowe Elementary
School in Glassboro, disagreed. He said most educators realize that analyzing
test scores along racial lines gives them an opportunity to address what
is really an economic problem.
- "You find a wealthy kid, and that's a kid who's
likely to do better on test scores," Mitcho said. "How would
I improve the schools in Glassboro? I'd give every parent a better job,
and just watch the improvement in the school system."
- David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law
Center in Newark, questioned whether the data will improve test scores.
"What is a particular school or district going to do with this?"
- Cherry Hill officials began sorting their test data by
race several years ago to address the disparity, said school district spokeswoman
- While the gap is tremendous, Cohen said the district
has made progress by encouraging minority students to take advanced classes,
involving parents, and instituting a summer math program.
- Pennsauken plans to add an extra period of math classes
for its middle-school students next year. The district also is instituting
- "They're all our kids and they all have to succeed,"
Pennsauken Superintendent Walter Quint said. "We know we have to do
a better job to get those scores up for every student."