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Latino students in city schools improving math scores on federal tests

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 04:  A maths teacher uses his white board to explain a sum to pupils King Edward VI High School for Girls  on 4 October, 2006, Birmingham, England. The independent school for girls continues it's tradition  to be one of the top schools in Britain having achieved a 94% pass rate at A and B grades in it's A level results. Last year, 27.1% of pupils in independent schools gained three or more grade A's at A-level, compared with 8% of pupils in all state schools.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 04: A maths teacher uses his white board to explain a sum to pupils King Edward VI High School for Girls on 4 October, 2006, Birmingham, England. The independent school for girls continues it's tradition to be one of the top schools in Britain having achieved a 94% pass rate at A and B grades in it's A level results. Last year, 27.1% of pupils in independent schools gained three or more grade A's at A-level, compared with 8% of pupils in all state schools. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)  (2006 Getty Images)

Latino students – especially those in cities like Boston, Charlotte, Houston and Washington D.C. – have made significant gains on federal math tests during the past decade, according to a study that analyzed school data from the last 10 years.

A report by the non-profit Child Trends Hispanic Institute research center found that between the years of 2003 and 2013, the average math scores for Latino students attending U.S. public schools rose from nine points in fourth grade to 13 points in eighth grade on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which students take every two years and is called "the Nation's report card."

“Among Hispanic children and youth, there are many positive trends,” Carol Emig, the group’s president, wrote at the beginning of the report. “In highlighting these, our intention is not to overlook serious threats to the well-being of the many Hispanic children who are poor, struggling in school, or fleeing violence. Our intention is to widen the lens because America’s Hispanic children are a bigger and more diverse group, and are more rooted in our nation’s culture than recent headlines might suggest.”

The report also found that the number of Latino students attending public schools in major cities saw similar upswings, with 10- and 13-point increases in grades four and eight, respectively. This number has surprised some education experts who generally see poorer results from over-crowded schools in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods.

“It’s really interesting what’s going on in the large cities,” Natalia Pane, author of the report and senior vice president of research operations at Child Trends told the Washington Post. “Our large cities were able to keep pace when they’ve got such higher proportions of students coming from low-income families.”

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Pane added that some of the factors that may be have attributed to the success of Latino students in these schools is that educational institutions are using data more, increasing instructional time, reducing suspensions and developing programs to target English-language acquisition.

“They’ve got maybe more rigorous standards and better teacher training,” she said.

Some observers have also attributed the overall upward trend in test scores on a state and national level to the success of the growing number of Hispanic students in city schools.

“The cities enroll such a large proportion of the nation’s Hispanic kids; I think that’s driving the state numbers,” Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, told the Washington Post.

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