Los Angeles Unified’s minority and low-income students met or exceeded state academic progress goals in math and English for the third straight year, but they failed to narrow the achievement gap with Asian and white students, according to figures released Thursday. Educators said their main focus this year will be to address the persistent gap in a state where the English-learning population is projected to multiply, admitting their efforts over the past few years have not been tough enough. “This type of improvement is a cause for some celebration, with the caveat that we still believe we can do better,” said Jack O’Connell, California superintendent of public instruction. “We don’t want our (minority and low-income students) to parallel their peers. We want them to narrow the achievement gap that we admit exists.” Reflecting statewide trends, the LAUSD’s African-American and Latino students showed double-digit point increases in the Academic Performance Index – which measures performance on a 200-to-1,000-point scale – as did their white and Asian counterparts. The performance target for all students is 800. Officials explained that each year the measures for calculating the API scores change and become more difficult – with a greater emphasis put on the standards test – so it’s unrealistic to expect seeing exceptional gains like those in 2003. The best gauge of academic improvement is to track performance over time, educators agreed. For example, at Reseda Elementary, where more than 85 percent of students are on free- and reduced-lunch plans and about 76 percent are Latino, their API increased from 489 in 1999 to 774 – a difference of 285. While improving the performance of low-income and minority students has been a challenge, Principal Rosemarie Kubena said there is no doubt they will break 800 next year by continuing to address student needs. “We have improved tremendously since API began and we see us continuing to improve because we look at our data and assess and revamp what we’re doing to meet student needs,” Kubena said. “We tend to focus on the kids, their needs, and that’s how we drive our instruction.” O’Connell said Thursday that he is exploring establishing an accountability system that would impose higher achievement expectations for minority and low-income students. Also, the LAUSD’s school board on Thursday held the first meeting of its new Educational Equity Committee, which will focus solely on the problem of closing the achievement gap. “We’re really going to start to look at schools that are closing the gap, what they are doing and replicating their success,” board President Marlene Canter said. The API results released by the State Department of Education were nearly identical to those put out Aug. 1, but Thursday’s included results broken down by ethnicity and income, giving administrators more detailed information about where to focus their resources. Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week But while whites hit an API of 800 and Asians 835, African-Americans had an API of 603 and Hispanics 624. “The good news is there is continuing improvement. But because all groups are growing, the (achievement) gap is not necessarily narrowing,” said Esther Wong, assistant superintendent for planning, assessment and research at the LAUSD. Districtwide, 64 percent of schools met their API targets – calculated as 5 percent of the difference between the school’s API and the statewide target of 800 – compared with 51 percent last year. San Fernando Valley schools performed better, with about 71 percent of schools meeting their targets. Statewide, 68 percent met their targets compared with 48 percent last year – an upswing educators attribute to teaching the standards. But neither the state nor the Los Angeles Unified School District has matched its performance in 2003, when 85 percent of LAUSD schools met their targets and 78 percent did statewide.