Opinion: It’s code red for six of San Jose’s largest school districts

by ZeuCer

Community leaders must be more transparent and start talking about alarming test scores.

The data are alarming, code red! In 2022 according to the California Department of Education 33% of California’s students met math standards and 47% met English Language Arts standards. And in San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, our students score significantly below the state average. Here are the facts, just the facts, most education leaders do not want you to know.

In 2023 San Jose school systems are experiencing downward trending achievement levels and higher absenteeism. That said, very few of our community leaders discuss the seriousness of the problem for our collective benefit. This must change.

Our children are the beneficiaries of a quality public education system in life and in the community to careers. Our democracy and economy depend on their success in our public schools. Achievement and opportunity gaps have persisted for decades and continue to cost us the future of our most marginalized students.

Ultimately, school district governing boards are responsible for closing these gaps, but the question is how regularly do our school boards talk about or share data about these gaps with the public? How are school boards pursuing targeted solutions to help our most high-need students based on these gaps?

Data from 2022 Smarter Balanced Tests in 6 of the largest San Jose districts — Alum Rock, Berryessa, Evergreen, Franklin-McKinley, Oak Grove and San Jose Unified. All totaled these are the average scores of 68,812 students disaggregated by race/ethnicity.

Percent of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards in English: Asian (73.13%), Black/African American (32.67%), Latino/Hispanic (30.85%), and White (59.41%).

Percent of students meeting or exceeding grade level standards in mathematics: Asian (67.72%), Black/African American (15.70%), Latino/Hispanic (18.37%) and White (49.60%).

These data, exacerbated by the pandemic, indicate an unsustainable problem that keeps some of those most marginalized children from life’s success. Students scoring below grade level-proficiency in math and English too often translates to additional classes in the accepting community college or CSU, too often leading to dropping out before receiving a terminal degree or certificate. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen says, “for every 10% increase in high school graduation rates violent crime goes down 20%.” The Santa Clara County current graduation rate is 80%.

It is time that every school board in our San Jose/Silicon Valley regularly address their state testing results, attendance, and discipline data at every regular board meeting. Discussing these data sets while asking the tough questions about why these gaps continue to persist is a key strategy for improvement. Targeted solutions can be developed to propel our most marginalized students towards success.

To do that end, school board members need to be equipped with the skills to analyze racial disparities in student outcomes that will enable them to understand, discuss, analyze, and deliberate on school district efforts to close these gaps. This is what education justice for all children looks like and this is a call to action for everyone to demand that our districts have bold and courageous conversations about the gaps that are robbing our children of their future.

The path toward education justice for all children paved with equity and excellence must be audacious and place children first. Every stakeholder and leader must know the data clearly and with the purpose to promote a plan of action to get better results for all with a strong sense of urgency. The results must be tracked transparently and longitudinally.

Every San Jose school district’s board should be regularly reporting all the data sets to all its stakeholders. Every elected leader in San Jose must keep the education of all our children front and center. Education justice begins and ends with the elected leaders. The voters must hold them responsible for the results now more than ever.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Karen Martinez is a member of the San Jose/Evergreen Community College Board of Trustees.

SOURCE: https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/05/02/opinion-its-code-red-for-six-of-san-joses-largest-school-districts/

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