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A Tale of Three Cities: a reflection on education and equity


The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Results were released in September 2015. If you have internet access, you may take a look for yourself at http://caaspp.cde.ca.gov/sb2015/Search. Parents have been warned and conditioned by the state, district, and school administrators to not compare the new results to past standardized test results. Test scores are only a data point and not an all inclusive representation of schools.

As a parent of school aged children, test scores are one of few tools to easily compare schools without visiting every school and speaking with teachers and administrators. (By the way, a few years ago when I was searching for a kindergarten for my oldest child, I tried to visit several public schools and on occasion, I was turned away.)

For MDUSD, it is a tale of three cities (and a town). If your child, goes to an elementary, middle, or high school in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, or Clayton, then congratulations. Your student has a better than 50% chance of meeting or exceeding grade level expectations for language arts and math.

Here’s a summary snapshot for the elementary schools in MDUSD: Walnut Creek (4 schools) - Language Arts 70.75; Math 62.25Pleasant Hill (5 schools) - Language Arts - 64.8; Math - 57.8Clayton (1 school) - Language Arts - 69; Math - 62All other MDUSD cities (20 schools): Language Arts - 32.4; Math - 26.95

For Cambridge Elementary School, where many of Neto’s members have children attend elementary school, 18% of students meet language art expectations while 11% of students meet math expectations. Put another way, more than 4 of 5 students do NOT meet language arts expectations and 8 of 9 students do NOT meet math expectations.

The students attending schools in Concord, Bay Point, and Pittsburg are being left behind, and if you examine the test scores for middle and high school, student performance in CAASPP continue the trend in language arts and deteriorate in math.

The time for action is now! School district administrators need to address this achievement gap within their own district boundaries. How is it possible that students in schools in some cities within the same school district outperform other students in the same cities by more than double? The district is doing a disservice to its students by not providing basic skills needed to compete when they graduate and move to college or a career. What is the plan of action to improve the situation and alleviate the discrepancy?

Parents need to talk to their principals and teachers. They should not accept the answer that the tests scores are not representative of their school’s or district’s performance. Do not take excuses for an answer. Demand a plan of action!

Here are some potential excuses that I’ve read in a Contra Costa Times article titled “California test scores in the cellar” published on October 28, 2015.

  • The NAEP tests aren't completely aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the educational regimen around which the state is designing its curriculum, state Department of Education spokesman Bill Ainsworth wrote in an email. "Consequently, we do not believe they are a good measure of California students' progress."

  • Angelica Ramsey, associate superintendent of the Santa Clara County Office of Education, pointed out that some districts have been slow to roll out Common Core, a curriculum that's more rigorous than previous standards. "I think we're going to see scores continue to increase," she said. "We're just not quite there yet."

  • Eric Heins, a Pittsburg Unified teacher and president of the California Teachers Association, agreed. "We're doing things so differently in California," he said. "It's better to look at the metrics we're using."

When these responses are offered, parents should counter that since the NAEP is not a “good measure of California students’ progress,” then what is? What tools are provided to determine whether the students are succeeding or not? If administrators thinks that “scores will continue to increase”, then how is the current achievement gap within our school district explained? If “we’re doing things so differently in California [and] it’s better to look at the metrics we’re using,” then please share the metrics that should be used.

The fact is that a snapshot in time shows that more than 2 out of 3 students in MDUSD that are in Concord, Pittsburg, and Bay Point do not meet or exceed expectations. Almost 3 out of 4 students in the same geography do not meet or exceed math expectations. If students are fortunate enough to go to school in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, or Clayton, their chances to meet or exceed expectations more than doubles.

If you see and interpret the results, I hope you are saddened and angered by them. It’s time for improvement. Our children deserve better. There needs to be a plan of action that can demonstrate improvement and quickly before more students fall further and further behind.If you have ideas or what to talk about MDUSD education, you can contact me at herblee@yahoo.com.

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