Statewide assessments provide education decision makers with a standardized measurement of whether students are meeting benchmarks, signifying effectiveness of instruction. California uses the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) summative standardized assessment. All public school students in the state of California are required to take this assessment in grades 3-8 and 11. The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) system monitors student progress from year-to-year on state standards for English Language Arts/ Literacy (ELA) and Mathematics. Each district is required to post CAASPP scores, as well as other performance indicators (i.e. attendance, graduation, suspension rates, etc.) on a digital dashboard that can be viewed by the public. The SBAC has three components that are “designed to support teaching and learning” throughout the year (CDE, 2018). The system measures and tracks how students perform, and rates them at four different levels: 1) Standard not met: Student is in need of substantial improvement for success in future courses; 2) Standard nearly met: Student may require further development for success in future courses; 3) Standard met: Demonstrates progress toward mastery; 4) Standard exceeded: Student demonstrates advanced progress toward mastery.
In the following figures, the percentage of Black students not meeting grade-level standards is compared to the overall student percentage in that category for each district. Figure 2.5 shows alarming percentages of Black third graders not meeting English Language Arts standards in many school districts across the county. In Inglewood Unified and Paramount Unified, at least half of all Black third grade students were assessed as being in need of substantial improvement in English Language Arts (ELA). In some school districts the high levels of Black students not meeting ELA standards is shared by other students in the district. In other school districts, however, there are strong racial differences in achievement. In Paramount Unified, for example, 1 in 2 (51 percent) of Black students are failing to meet standards in this area. On the other hand, in the Inglewood Unified school district racial disparities in achievement are much less. For example, 1 in 2 (50 percent) of Black students are failing which is only slightly higher than the overall district total numbers (46 percent) as evidenced in Figure 2.5.
Figure 2.6 shows the percentages of third grade students not meeting Mathematics standards across 14 school districts that serve 800 Black hundred students or more in Los Angeles County. Over 50% of Black students in the Inglewood Unified district are struggling to meet state Mathematics standards that are foundational to their academic progress. Students in smaller school districts like Culver City and Torrance Unified have a smaller proportion of Black students; smaller numbers of students overall; as well as a 3 percent gap in performance for Culver City on Mathematics for Culver City and 7 percent gap for Torrance.
Figure 2.7 displays the percentage of eighth graders deemed as needing substantial support in English and Language Arts. In school districts such as Compton, Inglewood, Pomona, and Los Angeles, large percentages of Black eighth graders were deemed in need of substantial improvement in English and Language arts, with substantial racial disparities observed in the Compton and Long Beach school districts. In some respects, the circumstance of struggling eighth graders mirrors the performance of third graders (Figure 2.5). In Compton, Inglewood and Pomona approximately 1 in 2 Black eighth graders are in need of substantial support to meet English Language Arts standards. In Compton and Pomona, high levels are accompanied with substantial racial disparities where almost 1 in 2 (47%) of students in Pomona are significantly behind compared to the rest of their counterparts in the district.
Figure 2.8 displays eighth graders deemed as needing substantial support in Mathematics. Among eighth graders in Compton and Inglewood school districts, almost 3 in 4 Black students in those school districts do not meet the standard set for Mathematics acquisition. Among the 14 school districts, all but ABC and William S. Hart indicate that almost 50 percent of Black eighth graders are not meeting Mathematics standards. More importantly, Torrance, Long Beach, and Compton have even more alarming racial disparities between Black and non-Black students.
Figure 2.9 shows that there are differences between Los Angeles County school districts in the proportion of 11th grade Black students deemed in need of substantial support to meet state standards in English and Language Arts. Over 50% of Black students in the Antelope Valley and Compton districts were assessed in this category, and Paramount Unified very close. While racial disparities are very low in districts like Culver, Torrance and Inglewood, they are exceptionally high in Los Angeles, Antelope Valley and Pomona districts.
As shown by Figure 2.10, there are alarmingly high proportions of 11th grade students that clearly do not meet state Mathematics standards. In all but a few (Hart, ABC, & Torrance) of the selected districts, close to/exceeding half of the students in the district do not meet the standards for Mathematics. In Antelope Valley, Compton, and Inglewood districts the proportion of Black students not meeting 11th grade Mathematics standards exceeds 80% or 8 in 10 students not meeting standards.
The graduation rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class (Public Health Institute & California Environmental Health Tracking Program, 2015). While graduation rates for most student groups are near or exceeding county levels, Black students continue to graduate at a lower rate compared to their counterparts. In the 14 school districts we examined, there is a great deal of variation in graduation rates. Contrastingly, only 76% of Black students in Antelope Valley graduated in four years compared to 97% of Black students in Torrance Unified (See Figure 2.11).
Another way to assess the quality of educational opportunity is by determining college eligibility and admission. To be eligible for admission, a California resident must complete A-G requirements with a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher. The A-G requirements are a sequence of high school courses that students must complete (with a grade of C or better) to be minimally eligible for admission to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU). They represent the basic level of academic preparation that high school students should achieve to undertake university work (California Department of Education, 2018).
UC/CSU Eligibility Gap by District
In 13 of the 14 school districts, the eligibility rate of Black students is below that of both overall county and state eligibility rates. Notably, 62% of Black students were eligible in Culver City Unified, a small, racially, ethnically and economically diverse district, and the only district in our study that exceeded both county and state.