Detail from report, http://reportcards.edtrustwest.org
There's no question that many public schools in Oakland have dramatically improved their test scores over the past two years and that efforts are being made to address the drop-out rate and the way the system is failing many students of color.
However, the latest district report card from Education Trust-West - an Oakland-based education advocacy group that graded 146 large school districts in California, including Oakland Unified on how its low-income, African-American and Latino students were doing compared to the white students - had a close-to-failing grade.
The research ranked student performance and student improvement on standardized tests, gaps in API test scores between white students and students of color and the rate at which students of color finished high school with the classes completed that are required for admission to University of California and California State University systems. Added together, these results were turned into an overall grade for each district in the state of California and published in a report in April 2011.
So, what did Oakland get? A big D+
Among the 146 districts that received grades and rankings, the highest overall grade was a B. But the most affluent districts didn't receive the best score, this time around. Three of the top-ranked districts have large numbers of low-income students and students of color in attendance. Val Verde Unified, Baldwin Park Unified and Paramount Unified - all in Southern California - are each more than 75 percent low-income, and each serves a student population that is more than 85 percent African-American or Latino. Among the districts receiving a D were Palo Alto, Berkeley and Alameda. Clearly, an achievement gap for minority students isn't just about funding, it's also about priorities and focus.
So why did Oakland score so low?
The size of the achievement gap between white students and African-American and Latino students is staggeringly high on standardized tests and puts Oakland last of 126 districts in the size of this gap. Similarly, Oakland received a D on overall API test scores by students of color and low-income students in 2010, with students of color scoring 269 points lower than whites on these tests - putting Oakland 143 out of 146 districts in this category.
However, a look at each of the criteria revealed some positive notes for Oakland. According to Education Trust-West, only 35 percent of high school graduates completed the necessary A-G coursework in 2008-09, the most recent year for which they had data, to qualify for admission to the state university system. But the data for students of color was even worse.
Of those who did complete the coursework, only 27 percent were African-American students and 26 percent were Latino students. However, in Oakland, 32 percent of the African-American students graduating were college ready, and 42 percent of the Latinos, bringing the grade in this area to a B.
In addition, Oakland scored high on the district improvement rubric, showing a rise in set scores over five years that put our district into the top 24 in terms of improvement and got us a B score from Education Trust-West.
So what's the report recommend? Attention to metrics, culture of accountability and focus on change.
To read the entire report, visit reportcards.edtrustwest.org or download off scribed.