Ogo Okoye-Johnson | Our Children and Education Equity

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As we welcome the year 2020, it is important to reflect on the state of education in our community. Ensuring that all our children are provided the necessary competencies to be successful should be our priority. Performance scores, like any data, are meaningless unless the scores are analyzed and guide intentional decision-making and actions that lead to improved outcomes. 

Based on the recently released 2018-19 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) scores, the school districts in Santa Clarita Valley are to be commended because the overall students’ performance average is higher than the Los Angeles County and state overall average student performance levels.

However, a deep dive into these CAASPP scores reveals that education equity for all students is far from being achieved in SCV schools because socio-economically disadvantaged and ethnic minority sub-groups are not thriving academically. The scores of the economically disadvantaged students (EDS) are not only significantly lower than the scores of the not economically disadvantaged students, but also significantly lower than the overall students’ scores.  

In the Antelope Valley school districts, both the overall and the EDS average performance is lower than Los Angeles County and state overall average student performance levels except for the Westside School District’s EDS English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) performance of 39.14%, which is 0.17% higher than the state’s EDS ELA performance.

Persistent achievement gaps, based on race and socio-economic status due to the systemic and disproportionate exclusion of these groups of students from access to rigorous and high-quality instruction, are evident. 

Academic Achievement 

The 2018-19 ELA/Literacy and Mathematics CAASPP results reported by California Department of Education  (caaspp-elpac.cde.ca.gov/caaspp/) show that not EDS significantly outperformed the EDS who met or exceeded the standards (levels 3 and 4) by a 10.07% gap in Eastside School District to a 35.03% gap in Newhall School District. 

The EDS average scores are significantly lower than the average scores of all students by 1.09% in Eastside School District to 20.68% in Newhall School District. These results demonstrate that about 42-73% in ELA and 51-91% in math of the EDS in the SCV and AV school districts are performing at below standards. 

School districts with lower percentage of EDS have a higher overall average academic performance. 

College Readiness 

The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate data from Ed-Data show the percent of graduates who completed all the courses required for University of California (UC) and/or California State University (CSU) entrance with a grade of “C” or better in AV and SCV high school districts in 2017-18 range from 20.1% in Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, 33.4% in Antelope Valley Union High School District (AVUHSD) to 50.9% in William S. Hart Union High School District, and a 56.2% average in Los Angeles County while the percent of socioeconomically disadvantaged (SED) graduates within the same cohort is much lower and range from 11.8% in AADUSD, 30.1% in AVUHSD to 37.3% in the Hart District, and a 52.6% average in the Los Angeles County. 

Thus, over 50% average of high school students in the SCV and AV districts are not completing all the courses required for UC and/or CSU entrance with a grade of “C” or better.

College Enrollment 

On July 11, 2019, the first College-Going Report (CGR) depicting the college enrollment of California public high school graduates was released. The CGR on DataQuest documents that 55.8% in AADUSD, 60.8% in Antelope Valley Union High School District, 75.6% in the Hart District, 61.9% in Los Angeles County and 64.4% of the state of California public high school graduates enrolled in college within 12 months of leaving high school in 2017-18. 

AADUSD and AVUHSD rates are lower than the Los Angeles County rate while AADUSD, AVUHSD and the county rates are lower than the state rate.

The SED college enrollment rate is much lower and ranges from 52.2% in AADUSD, 59% in AVUHSD, to 65.6% in the Hart District, and a 56.8% average in Los Angeles County.

Then What?

These statistics show that the educationally disadvantaged students will benefit tremendously from an educational program that will address the identified gaps. Further, the data demonstrates the compelling and apparent need for strong intervention and support strategies that will enable these students to perform successfully on the standardized tests while accessing the courses needed to be successful in college. 

These persistent gaps in achievement based on race and income level are not a result of a lack of ability, but primarily due to lack of access to appropriate interventions and rigorous college preparatory education. While college attendance is by choice, all students upon high school graduation should be equipped with skills to be successful in college. 

Traditional public schools are doing their best and yet year after year the economically disadvantaged students continue to perform significantly lower than their economically advantaged peers. It is clear that traditional public schools should not be the only public education option for families. Families who could afford to do so choose private schools for their children while some other families choose to home-school their children. However, families who cannot afford private schools or to home-school their children have no public school choice option of a rigorous college preparatory seat-based charter school in the city of Santa Clarita.

It is time to eradicate this lack of appropriate public school options for the most vulnerable families because, regardless of educational setting, when all our students thrive, our community thrives. As Santa Clarita, the third largest city in Los Angeles County, and the surrounding cities continue to grow, build new homes and attract a variety of families, it is important that we plan for the impact of this growth in order to make sure that the community we love and call home remains a great place for all families and residents by providing desired education options that will enable all students to be successful. 

Just as Supervisor Kathryn Barger, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District, “aims to unify and expand Los Angeles County’s efforts on behalf of youth,” it is in our collective interest to ensure that all our children, the future of our community, are equipped with the tools to keep our valleys growing and thriving. 

Ogo Okoye-Johnson is a curriculum developer, education consultant, entrepreneur, author, social justice advocate and blogger. A long-time resident of Santa Clarita, she is the founder and CEO for Eagle Collegiate Academy, a proposed college preparatory International Baccalaureate Pre-K-12 public charter school. 

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