One year after the nation’s governors pledged to improve American high schools, most states have made progress in raising achievement in the elementary grades, but secondary schools still struggle to close gaps between poor and minority students and their White and more affluent peers, according to a report released today by the Education Trust.

The report, “Primary Progress, Secondary Challenge: A State-by-State Look at Student Achievement Patterns,” examines state assessment results in reading and math between 2003 and 2005 and finds that progress in raising achievement and closing gaps continues to be strongest in the elementary grades. Overall achievement in middle and high school has improved somewhat. But, four years after enactment of the No Child Left Behind law, there is still too little progress in narrowing gaps between groups in the secondary grades. The Latino-White gap in math achievement at the high school level, for instance, widened or stayed the same in as many states as it narrowed.

“There’s enormous evidence from elementary grades that when we focus on raising achievement and closing gaps, we can get the job done,” said Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust. “But the fact remains that we’ve still got a lot to do to fix high schools so that they work for all kids, not just a select few.”

“We have got to maintain momentum in the elementary grades, while dramatically ratcheting up the rate of improvement in our high schools,” she said.

The report highlights strategies already underway at some high schools that are seeing success in raising achievement for previously low-performing students. They include: improving literacy instruction, assigning all students to challenging courses, and focusing on students’ needs to drive teacher assignment and support.

Read the report, available here at The Education Trust.