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Most Minority Disadvantaged Students in Santa Monica Malibu Public Schools Fail State Test


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By Niki Cervantes
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October 11, 2017 -- Although scores improved overall, as many as three in five “disadvantaged” minority students in Santa Monica-Malibu public schools failed to meet standards in the newest round of state testing, California Department of Education data show.

Among economically disadvantaged Hispanic students, more than half tested in English Language Arts/Literacy this year posted scores of either a Level 2, which is “nearly” meeting the state standard, or a Level 1, which is also failure to do so.

In math, 68 percent failed to meet state standards, the data shows.

Their African American counterparts in the tests comprised a smaller portion of the disadvantaged population -- or 192 students compared to 982 Hispanic students -- but the overall picture was much the same.

About 55 percent of African American students tested for English Language Arts failed to meet the standards of the 2016-17 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests and 67 percent failed the math standard, the data show.

But it is data for students identified as white but not with socio-economic troubles that indicates the “achievement gap” -- in place for decades at SMMUSD as elsewhere in the nation -- remains significant.

Of 2,872 non-disadvantaged white students tested in English Language Arts, more than half exceeded standards, and another 28 percent met standards.

The failure rate was 16 percent, although it rose to 24 percent in math.

Among about 280 Asian students tested (none categorized as disadvantaged), success rates were also high.

About 68 percent were scored as exceeding standards for language and math, and roughly another 20 percent achieving the standard.

Only 11 percent failed in language and 13 percent in math.

About 1,387 students in the testing were categorized as economically disadvantaged.

For test results click here

School Board member Oscar de la Torre said the data help show the “achievement gap” between the district’s white, mostly well-off majority of students and their minority counterparts is mostly “an income gap.”

Minority students from low-income families can’t afford basics most other students take for granted as part of a good education, such as home computers, tutoring and extracurricular activities, he said.

“Look at honors placement, the orchestra,” de la Torre said. “There are many gaps because of the income gap.”

The school board has made addressing the achievement gap a top priority.

About 52 percent of the district’s roughly 11,000 students are white, with another 30 percent Hispanic.

Students who are African American, Asian or identified as having two or more ethnicities represent seven percent, six percent and five percent of total enrollment, respectively.

That could be changing.

As of last year, though, Hispanic children represented 51 percent of preschool enrollment, with white preschoolers accounting for 30 percent.

An in-depth examination of the school system by an outside consultant last year strongly criticized the district for repeatedly failing disadvantaged students ("Santa Monica-Malibu Schools Get Failing Grades in Closing Achievement Gap," April 20, 2016).

The District had failed to bridge the achievement gap because it has been unable to muster the public will, leadership or the right teaching to succeed, according to the report by Pedro Noguera, an academic with UCLA and an expert on diversity.

“None of these efforts have reduced disparities in student achievement or produced significant or sustainable improvements in academic outcomes for African-American and Latino students, English language learners, children with learning disabilities and low-income students generally, in the school district,” the report said.

SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker said the test results showed some improvement on efforts to close the gap, but said it is a problem that cannot be solved overnight.

The district, which has been restructuring how to deal with its gap, is using a “multitude of ways to help, student by student.”

Pinsker said the new testing data will go to each school principal and staff for closer analysis.


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