Report shows SoCal tops NorCal districts in service to students of color

The largest unified districts in Southern California tend to achieve better outcomes in educating traditionally underserved student populations than their Northern California counterparts, based on newly-released assessments of how well schools are teaching Latino, African-American and low-income students.

The 2011 findings are based on annual report cards issued by The Education Trust-West revealing how well California's 147 largest unified school districts serve these student groups.

This is the second year the Oakland-based educational policy, research and advocacy organization has issued its District Report Cards,' compiled from publicly available data to assign districts A-F' letter grades and rankings based on four key indicators: performance, improvement, achievement gaps and college-readiness.

The 2011 data showed most districts maintained the same grades as in 2010, the first year the report cards were issued. Of those districts who did receive a new overall grade, twice as many improved as compared with those that slid backward.

Last year, thousands of parents and community groups across California used our district report cards to learn how their districts stacked up against the state's top performers for underserved students," Dr. Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust-West, said in a statement. "Once again, the report cards reveal the important role that districts play in focusing attention on their highest need students and improving results."

Parents and others can look up an individual district's report card at

Overall A' grades are found in high-poverty and low-poverty districts alike, says Ramanathan, dispelling the myth that poverty and low performance are inexorably connected.

Four of the top 10 overall districts serve large numbers of low-income students and students of color: Corona-Norco Unified, Lake Elsinore Unified, Covina-Valley Unified and Baldwin Park Unified are more than 40 percent low-income, and each serves a student population that is more than 55 percent African-American or Latino.

By contrast, many wealthier and less diverse districts are found near the bottom of Education Trust-West's rankings.

One geographic trend revealed by the report cards is that 72 percent of districts in Northern California earn an overall grade of D,' while districts in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions receive Bs,' as do districts in the Inland Empire, Los Angeles County, and Orange and San Diego counties.

The highest grade in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region is a C+.'

"When we visited high performing, high-poverty districts, we found that while there was no silver bullet' for this work, there are consistent strategies," read a statement from Dr. Jeannette LaFors, director of practice at The Education Trust-West. "District leaders, from superintendents to board members, are working with educators to create a culture of high expectations, data-based decision making and high-quality instruction, while fully engaging students and parents as partners."

To read more about how the report cards are compiled, see: more