April 6, 2007

Commentary:

Academic Performance Disparity in South Bay Schools

By Ed Herrera

The California State Department of Education has released its state-wide assessments of academic performance indexes that continue to reinforce achievement gaps and academic performance disparity between South County and North County Schools in San Diego.

The Sweetwater Union High School District, one of the largest secondary public education school districts in the state which vastly serves the communities of Chula Vista, Bonita, Imperial Beach, San Ysidro, National City, and portions of South San Diego, performed with only 4.3% of its middle and high school students achieving an API of 800 or above.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District, the third largest elementary school district in the state, performed with 33.3% of its students achieving an API of 800 or above.

Lastly, both the National City School District and South Bay Union School District performed with 0.00% of its students achieving an API of 800 or above. Both school districts share more than simply API scores of 0%. They also serve two communities, which in 1992, led efforts towards unification in order to gain control of its neighborhood middle and high schools. Unification meant Sweetwater Union High School District would lose jurisdiction and control of seven middle and high schools. The ballot measured failed when Sweetwater Union High School District spent $200,000 to campaign against the measure. In 2006, Ron Morrison, now Mayor of National City, ran on a platform which advocated unification and members of the National City School District have been vocal on the issue as well.

The disparity between academic performance in South County and North County is evident. For example, San Dieguito, San Diego County Office of Education, Alpine, Cardiff, Coronado, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, San Pasqual, and Solana Beach School Districts have performed with 100% of its students achieving an API of 800 or above.

Students should be driven by their goals, aspirations, and dreams and not bound by their socio-economic conditions. The responsibility of school districts is to provide fundamental learning skills and knowledge to students to better equip students for the future. However, many students are deterred by those conditions and must confront obstacles which affect academic performance. Our school districts must make a greater effort to work with our U.S. Members of Congress and State Legislators, to tackle issues of poverty and other socio-economic hardships which students and their families confront in modern America. We must ensure that our communities are empowered to be proactive in our local schools and given the opportunity to play a role in the shaping of local school district policy because the inability for a community to be active in our children’s future, is deterrence in and of itself. We must acknowledge the disparity between communities and academic performance in order to redress the achievement gap in South County. When someone asks a parent how satisfied they are by the performance of the school district and the response that they are given is: “It depends who you talk to,” then we have a problem and that is something we cannot ignore.

Herrera is a former Sweetwater School Board candidate, former Commissioner & Chairman for the City of Chula Vista, and educational advocate at the local, state and federal levels of government.

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