Education Trust-West is an organization based in Oakland, California which seeks to acquire data regarding the achievement of students of color or students who come from low-income families within California’s school districts. This organization seeks to uncover the underlying reasons for the difference between minority students and white students when it comes to their academic success and achievement and discover what needs to be done to improve and lower the gap found between them.
Education Trust-West looks at three key areas in the school system: quality of teachers, access to and success throughout college and careers, and reasonable and acceptable funding for students. This past week, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District received its third annual report card from this organization. Like students get letter grades for their academic performance in school, Education Trust-West surveys different school districts in California and assigns letter grades based on the performance and achievements of minority students and students from low-income families.
When grading the school districts, Education Trust-West uses data tools to look at four key factors. The first factor is the performance of Latino, black, and low-income students on state tests as measured by their Academic Performance Index (API) scores. An “A” grade in this category would call for a district to receive a score of at least 800, out of a 1,000 point scale.
The second factor is the academic improvement over a five-year period of minority students. For this category, a district has to gain at least 100 API points over the five-year period. Thirdly, the scale compares the API scores of Latino, black, and low-income students to that of white students. For an “A” score in this category, the school district can only have a maximum of a 30 point gap.
Finally, the scale collects data on college readiness, that is how many Latinos, blacks, and low-income students are graduating high school in four years and how many are completing coursework that prepares them to enter into either UC or CSU schools.
An “A” for graduation rates means the district must show at least 90% of black, Latino, or low-income students graduating in four years and for an “A” in college admissibility, the district must show at least 45% of black, Latino, or low-income students completing coursework that makes them eligible to go into UC or CSU schools.
The SMMUSD fared well in three out of the four categories, but received a “C” grade overall because of the gap between black, Latino, and low-income students and white students when it came to API scores. On standardized testing, a gap (over 120 points) was found between white students and minority students where students of color or from low-income families scored visibly lower.
While receiving less than a 30 point gap receives an “A,” a gap more than 120 points receives a failing grade and because of this, the SMMUSD fell to an average ranking. However, according to the study done by Education-Trust West, SMMUSD also had a higher record of minority students completing coursework that made them eligible for UC or CSU schools than 136 other districts.
Additionally, 70% of black, Latino, and low-income students were found to make it through the coursework and complete it in four years. So while there remains a gap between black, Latino, and low-income students and their white peers, there is also a significant academic achievement for minority students as shown by these statistics.
The Vice President of the Board of Education for SMMUSD, Ben Allen, was aware of the survey taken and agreed that it is an important and integral part of the school system. “Education Trust-West is using this report card model to draw attention to a major national issue, which is the pervasive achievement gap between black and Latino students and white and Asian students,” Allen said. “Districts like ours are one of the best districts in the state on this issue, however there is no question that we have a long way to go in case of getting to where we want to be and it’s another reminder of how hard we need to work to make sure our students are succeeding regardless of background.”
The SMMUSD is not the only district that received low scores when it came to the gap between minority students and white students. Education Trust-West’s website posts that “most California districts receive C’s and D’s on these District Report Cards.” These findings show the work that both Education Trust-West and the school districts in California agree needs to be done in order to improve the education of low-income and minority students. Allen added, “I applaud Education Trust-West for focusing attention on this nationwide problem and the fact that cultural changes need to be addressed locally.”
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