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La Crosse schools battle achievement gap

LA CROSSE (WKBT) - The county's virtual report card was released today, and what it says about the gap between Wisconsin's black and white students isn't good.

The National Assessment of Education Progress is basically the country's report card. 4th and 8th graders take a standardized test on math and reading every two years, and the NAEP averages their test scores to rate each state.

Numbers released Thursday from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show our state has one of the nation's widest achievement gaps between black and white students.

The average math score for white students in 4th grade was 252. For black students, that number was more than 30 points lower, at 216. Reading was worse - white students scored an average of 228, while black students hit 193, the second lowest in the country.

As an early learning center with one of La Crosse's highest minority student numbers, Hamilton Elementary could be at the forefront of a fight against the achievement gap.

"We pour whatever we've got to help those kids in a timely fashion to address that concern," said Steve Michaels, Hamilton's principal.


"To close the achievement gap, we have to start as early as we can," said La Crosse School District employee Kris Mueller.

It truly is a concern here in Wisconsin.

As one of La Crosse's most diverse schools, Hamilton has taken the lead in pushing back that achievement gap in our region.

603 "The summer slide is one reason for which that gap can widen," Michaels said.

The school's first step was to spread its school year over a whole 12 months, so students wouldn't "slide back" a grade level over their summer break. That move helped improve growth in all students, white and minority groups alike.

"When you compare it to previous years, these numbers are really good, really excellent," he said.

Other La Crosse schools are making strides against the gap, too, by offering options like expanded summer school classes and online courses.

La Crosse's achievement gap is smaller than it is statewide," Mueller said. "It's slowly closing."

La Crosse hopes to keep closing that gap and provide an example for the rest of Wisconsin to follow.



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