A glance at the school district’s report of its 2016 performance on statewide testing reveals the sad shape of our schools. But if leaky roofs and broken air conditioners are bad, the less-than-standard educational output – what manufacturers might call their “scrap rate” — is worse.
The report is on the District’s website, and the performance of 11th graders – those approaching the end of the educational assembly line – is informative.
Fifty-nine percent of them met or exceeded standards for English language arts proficiency. That means 41% of them did not. For a District that has been educating kids of all backgrounds since the Coolidge administration, that’s frankly shocking and it should be embarrassing. If 41% of Ford’s cars or Apple I-Phones didn’t meet standards – were ‘scrap’ – they’d be out of business.
Many of those 11th graders might struggle to understand that math. Good and decent kids that they are, 56% of them did not meet math proficiency standards. But if 2016 is a guide, most of them will graduate next year anyway.
Yes, things are getting better, if only because they couldn’t get much worse. Before new statewide “Smarter Balanced Assessments” were introduced in 2014, the high school ranked three out of ten on the previous Academic Performance Index measure of school performance. Even at Trump University, thirty percent is an “F”.
Putting the best face on it, District performance equaled the state average for English Language Arts, and fell only slightly below the county average of 61%. It slightly bested both county and state averages on math performance. Sounds good, until one realizes that California K-12 schools rank 41 out of 50 nationwide; i.e., they stink.
One can get further depressed upon learning how badly the District is failing to provide meaningful education to minority and special needs children. Prozac might not provide enough comfort when one understands that SVUSD is not in Bilgewater, Mississippi but in one of the wealthiest communities in a state with the 8th largest economy in the world.
But school performance can’t simply be laid at the foot of teachers, administrators and staff, many of whom are highly qualified and underpaid to the point of being unable to live here.
School performance scores are a report card on the entire Valley. That includes parents, many of whom are unable to meaningfully participate in their children’s education, perhaps because they struggled in school themselves, struggle with English, or must work long hours on multiple jobs just to keep their families or what’s left of them together.
As any educator can attest, family stress devastates student performance, and that stress is unquestionably aggravated by the Valley’s notoriously low-paying wine/tourism economy, by housing priced beyond reach of many and by too-frequent latent and overt discrimination often ignored by schools, the business community and local media.
In short, “Warm, Safe and Dry” is not enough. More than Measure E, the District needs concerned citizens and competent leadership on school, city and county boards and councils – and in the private sector – that understands that schools are a critical thread in the Valley’s grand tapestry. When it frays or breaks, the whole community begins to unravel.
“Yes on E” won’t fix these problems. It can, however, signal that voters give a damn and will insist on better performance, from schools and the entire community, next year and every year.