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Patrick touts progress in school achievement gaps

Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday highlighted the state’s progress in narrowing the achievement gap among schoolchildren from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In a speech at Bunker Hill Community College, Patrick cited recent MCAS results showing gains by African-American and Hispanic students in mathematics and English-language arts.

African-American students in the 10th grade have improved their scores on the English portion of the test by 24 points since 2007. Hispanic students saw a 26-point increase over the same period of time, he said.

In mathematics, African-American students in the 10th grade have improved their MCAS scores by 28 points since 2007, Patrick said. Meanwhile, Hispanic students posted a 24-point increase in math.

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“Mind you, this is all while standards were being raised across the board for all students,” Patrick said.

Christopher Martes, head of the Boston education advocacy group Strategies for Children, said Patrick has been a “great supporter” of efforts to bolster school performance statewide.

To make greater strides, Martes said, the state should invest more money in high-quality early education, especially in mid-sized urban centers where the achievement gap persists.

He said those years are critical and cited research showing that children who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade struggle in school. Reading scores among third-grade students have been flat for the last decade, Martes said.

“If the state invested more . . . that investment would really pay off,” Martes said.

Before the latest recession, the state invested about $200 million in early education, but since then funding has dropped to about $100 million, Martes said. He said the state needs to get back to that funding level to start making progress.

“We think it’s a good start, but it cannot be ever framed as the solution,” he said.

Patrick administration officials said the state budget for this year and fiscal 2014 included new money to pay for early childhood programs for poor children.

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That money resulted in more than 3,000 children being taken off a wait list last year and placed in subsidized child care programs, Patrick said. This year, an additional 2,500 children were placed, he said.


Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.