Report: Hispanic achievement gap higher in Clovis

CNJ illustration: Gabriel Monte and Jenna Zamie

Liliana Castillo

White students in Clovis are outperforming their Hispanic counterparts by a margin higher than state averages, according to a recent report released by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The report concludes the achievement gap between Hispanic and white students is pronounced in reading and math at all grade levels and has stayed fairly consistent over six years.

The first ever Hispanic Education Status Report, which analyzes data to identify what is working and not working for New Mexico’s Hispanic students, was released Friday by New Mexico Secretary of Public Education Susanna M. Murphy.

According to the report, the statewide academic reading proficiency for Hispanic students stood at 47.9 percent, compared to 69.1 percent for white students. In math, proficiency for Hispanic students stood at 36.4, compared to 58.9 for white students.

The report considered all grades and school districts in the state.

Clovis Superintendent Terry Myers said Clovis’ Caucasian students are 69.7 percent proficient in reading and Hispanic students are at 45 percent. In math, proficiency for Hispanic students was at 38.8 percent and 61.9 for white students.

That means that there are 23.2 point gap between Hispanic and Caucasian students’ proficiency in math in Clovis and 22.5 at the state level. In reading, there is an almost 25 point gap between Hispanics and white students’ proficiency in reading in Clovis and 21.2 points at the state level.

The report is required by the Hispanic Education Act, which seeks to study, develop and implement an educational system that eliminates the achievement gap and increases graduation rates for Hispanic students. The act went into effect July 1, 2010.

Myers said there are many reasons for the achievement gap and many factors affect student learning. He said decreasing the achievement gap has been part of a focused drive he began pushing when he took the helm in August.

“One of the things I told the board when I came here was that I was concerned about the performance gaps,” he said. “I’m not too concerned about ethnicity in instruction, I’m more concerned about kids and their instruction individually.”

Myers said he prefers to focus on the overall improvement of the district’s near 8,500 students.

“If we focus on each individual child’s needs then I think we’ll see the improvement we want to see in our district test scores,” Myers said.

Myers said he was glad to see that Clovis students are performing on par with state students.

“The gaps that we’re seeing, student performance-wise are not just isolated to Clovis or the state of New Mexico, it’s evident all over the country,” Myers said. “While the numbers indicate that there’s some deep rooted reason for the gap, what we look at more and what we’re more concerned about is the improvement of each group,” Myers said.

Myers said that white students’ proficiency in reading has gone from 66 percent in 2006 to nearly 70 in 2010. Hispanic students’ proficiency increased from 42 to 45 percent in the same time period.

“We prefer to look at how individual groups are improving,” he said. “We’re not really happy with the performance of any group.”

Myers said the report is another piece of information that will help the district better serve its students.

“I do think Clovis is doing well with Hispanic students because we’re at the state norm. Do we want to do better? Absolutely. Will we do better? Absolutely,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.