The inequality across San Diego Unified School District’s hundred-plus schools is striking, according to new test data released by the Department of Education last week.
At La Jolla Elementary School, 98 percent of students are proficient in language arts; 99 percent are proficient in math.
At Rodriguez Elementary School, 14 percent are proficient in language arts; 27 percent are proficient in math.
But, as experts have long noted, much of what we see when we look at test scores is poverty. Many people have taken to calling it the “opportunity gap.” Low-income students have less access to health care, pre-school, books and a non-stressful home life. That gap is responsible for much of the gap in test scores.
At La Jolly Elementary, just 11 percent of students live in poverty.
At Rodriguez, 98 percent of students do.
There are bright spots and schools that rise above the odds.
- Juarez Elementary: 48 percent poverty; 82 percent proficient in language arts
- Cadman Elementary: 56 percent poverty; 78 percent proficient in math
- Hawthorne Elementary: 60 percent poverty; 76 percent proficient in math
But these bright spots should also push us to ask another question: Why aren’t we seeing promising results at so many other schools with high percentages of poverty?
- Foster Elementary: 58 percent poverty; 44 percent proficient in language arts
- High Tech Elementary (a charter school): 56 percent poverty; 46 percent proficient in math
These results also tell us that test scores are more than just a mere reflection of poverty. Good things are happening at some schools, which help students overcome the opportunity gap. At other schools, those things aren’t happening.
San Diego Unified officials love to talk about using data as a flashlight, not a hammer. For some of these schools, plagued by poverty, where the needle has hardly moved, I wonder what the flashlight tells them.
The era of high-stakes testing is definitively over. But one question is still rumbling beneath the landscape of education policy in California: Are we going to talk about test scores at all?
What We’re Writing
- Our second episode of Good Schools for All is out! I investigated what it would take to bring universal pre-k to California  and, shocker: We are a long way from there. If you haven’t listened yet, you really should. Nate John, our production manager, has put countless hours of production work into making myself and Scott Lewis sound good, and it has really paid off. Find it wherever you get your podcasts.
- A $9 billion school construction bond from 2016 tended to benefit school districts with the most money  – and it paid for a lot of projects that had already happened, as Ashly McGlone explained.
- School auditors are often referred to as “independent” and “state-approved,” but both terms are quite misleading. Charter schools and districts can hire and fire auditors at will. I examined transcripts from the alleged A3 charter school scam to show how audits don’t dig nearly as deep into a school’s finances as you might imagine .
- We previously revealed that a professor at Southwestern College was allowed to quietly resign with a non-disclosure agreement  after being involved in sexual acts with students. McGlone reviewed many cases we’ve reported in the past two years that show the practice is anything but uncommon .