Low-income and minority students in San Francisco’s public schools are not narrowing the testing and college preparation gap between themselves and other students, despite efforts by the school district, a new study reports.
When compared with districts statewide, the San Francisco Unified School District received a D for the overall performance of minority students, the report said.
“Some districts are performing at a much higher level than others,” said Arun Ramanathan, the executive director of Education Trust–West, the Oakland-based nonprofit that recently released the study.
“Those doing well are in the Central Valley, where there’s a higher level of low income,” Ramanathan said. “Conventional wisdom would say urban districts, which typically get more resources, would do better, but that’s not the case.”
San Francisco Unified, in particular, has some of the largest achievement gaps in the state, he said. The report said San Francisco Unified earned an F for the gaps that separate black and Hispanic students from their white counterparts.
Education Trust–West studied five years of scores from the Academic Performance Index, which is California’s testing standard. The report measured four criteria for low-income and minority students, including absolute test performance, improvement over a five-year period, the achievement gaps compared to their white counterparts and whether low-income and minority students were considered “college-ready” once they graduate from high school.
The report ranked 146 districts in California. Statewide, most districts received a C or D, overall.
Ramanathan said the achievement gap stems largely from a decades-old trend that allocated less money and fewer quality teachers to minority and low-income districts.
Richard Carranza, deputy superintendent with the district, agrees with that assessment. He said the achievement gap is the district’s No. 1 priority and that the report supports the strides the district is attempting to make.
“It absolutely supports what we want to do,” Carranza said. “Historically, these have been communities underserved by district and The City.”
San Francisco Unified has reorganized its administration by offering teachers more professional development opportunities in an attempt to be more focused on historically underperforming schools. The district also is focused on giving students in lower-achieving neighborhoods the ability to attend more diverse schools and participate in new programs by assigning students to schools in different parts of The City, Carranza said.
“San Francisco has some really isolated areas in which students live,” he said. “Through the student assignment, we’ve tried to address that by giving students the chance to attend school in other parts of the city.”
But Carranza said it could take up to five years before changes in the culture and focus of programs produce documentable results.
A look at how the San Francisco Unified School District fared in Education Trust-West’s report card on academic performance:
Source: Education Trust–West