Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
After San Diego Unified School District’s terrible showing last year where nine of its schools ranked among the worst in the state, things have clearly changed. Unfortunately, it has only gotten worse. Much worse.
Now, 12 Schools in SDUSD have been ranked among the worst in the state, but the way that the ranking system is done masks a system that could have far more schools in trouble than the figure suggests.
The primary measures of school performance are English language arts, mathematics, suspension rate, and chronic absenteeism. The reason why there could be far more than 12 schools in serious trouble is due to the fact that many schools on the list have similar English and math metrics but a higher suspension rate or absentee rate. If a school has a lax policy regarding behavior enforcement or simply doesn’t give out suspensions very often, it artificially inflates their rating. This appears to be the case with schools like Lafayette Elementary.
The metrics of Lafayette are identical to places like Porter Elementary, a school that is on the list, with one exception: the suspension rate for Porter Elementary is in the red while the rate for Lafayette is uncharacteristically blue when compared with every other metric at the school.
In some cases, this problem gets even worse. Comparing John Muir Language Academy, A K-12 school that is on the list, to Madison High School, a high school that isn’t, the metrics for Madison are far worse. Once again, something that isn’t related to education quality—chronic absenteeism—makes John Muir look like the worse school. In reality, Madison is in much more trouble than John Muir Language Academy.
In terms of English, Madison is only slightly worse at 34.8 below standard compared to John Muir’s 30.2. But for mathematics, it’s absolutely horrendous. John Muir has an incredibly bad 38.9 points below the standard while Madison has an unbelievably awful 109.3 below standard.
These examples of Lafayette and Madison are only here because of personal knowledge of their situation, but there could be far more schools that are doing just as bad, if not worse than them. The problem with using statistics like suspensions and absentees is that it uses a relatively small occurrence (how many people get suspended?) as a baseline for school policy as opposed to the much more important consideration of the number of students meeting English and math requirements, which shows the situation of every student at the school.
The rating system for schools needs to be changed to reflect the far more important metrics related to overall performance. If this were to be done it would pull back the veil on the problem and show that it’s far larger than 12 schools. If Lafayette and Madison are any indication, the problems may be citywide. If that is the case then the education system will need massive reform otherwise the children of San Diego will continue to receive an inferior education.