Asian and white students do the best, on average, when it comes to state tests — especially in math. That’s not new, and is no surprise.
But a new analysis by the State Board of Education adds a new dimension to those statistics, and a twist: When it comes to taking advanced classes in high school, Asian students appear to do so at higher rates than any other ethnic group. Much higher.
Take math: In the class of 2014, close to one-third of Asian students earned a calculus credit in high school. The next closest group? Whites at 13 percent. For blacks and Latinos, it was about 5 percent.
In physics and statistics, the numbers follow the same pattern, with a much higher percentage of Asian students earning credit than any other ethnic group.
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The data aren’t perfect, say staff members of the state board. And they stress that, in raw numbers, more white students take advanced courses than any other ethnic group.
But when it comes to the percent of students participating, Asians come out on top — and that gap is growing.
In calculus, for example, the percent of Asian students who earned one credit increased by six percentage points from 2012 through 2014, twice that of whites or any other ethnic group.
“Everyone is improving, but some groups are improving faster than others,” said Parker Teed, the board’s operations and data coordinator.
The big question is why, and Teed and Andrew Parr, a board senior policy analyst, say there’s probably a combination of reasons — everything from how well prepared students are when they arrive in high school to how many advanced courses their high schools offer.
Urban schools tend to offer more advanced classes than rural ones, for example. And other research has shown that many students who could do well in advanced classes don’t enroll.
To encourage school districts to make advanced courses available to all students, the State Board plans to report participation rates and will soon wrap them into its school performance rating system.